Thursday, March 29, 2012

Why Don't You Just Go... Croak?

So if I was really super awesomely on top of things, I would have read this book in time to post last week. Cause then it would have been even newer. But, I'm not; I read things as they catch my fancy. Still 9 days after the release date isn't bad, right? (Someday, I'll be super-awesome-blogger girl and get Galleys for this. *nods head*).  Tonight's post spotlights the very fun, fresh, and epically awesome new Young Adult book, Croak.

The Basics
Damico, Gina. Croak. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012. eBook.

Damico does not yet have a wikipedia page or any other info out in the easily searchable interwebs, so this bio is solely based on the much better one found on her website (See Extras below).  Damico is from New York state and holds a degree in theater and sociology. She currently resides in Boston with her two cats and a husband (Sebastian informs me via claw that cats take precedence). Croak is her first novel of epic awesomeness; I'm sure there will be more to come.

Croak's heroine is a girl named Lex, who's "troubled." She kicks, spits, punches, and terrorizes the school hockey team (and generally everyone else).  So, her parents, at their wits' end, ship her off to her Uncle Mort in upstate New York to spend the summer working on his farm. Except he's not a farmer, he's a Grim Reaper, and so is Lex. Sarcasm, antics, and drama ensue.

The Book
Is awesome.

Okay, so I've got more to say than that.  Let's start with Lex.  She starts out as a surly, angry teenager, who's pretty thoroughly unlikeable.  She picks the hair of a kid she bit out of her teeth with a "quick snap" like a proper little psycho.  However, Lex grows on you pretty quickly (in a decidedly un-fungus-like manner, too).  Since the entire third person narrative follows Lex, you get inside her head pretty quickly.  You learn that she doesn't really understand her own behavior any better than her baffled family, and I think that's something that normal (non Grim Reaper) teens can easily identify with  (I mean really, it's a miracle any of us survive that age without being strangled), even if the excuse of being hormone addled is far less cool. You also get to watch Lex grow a bit and start to come into her own as she finds a place where she can be herself in Croak.  She's also a sarcastic little smartie-pants, which makes for fun reading.

And speaking of sarcastically delightful reading, Damico infuses Croak with a delicious sense of humor that produces laughs with almost every page.  I actually had to share the laughs and read a passage out loud when she encounters a frat boy with a popped collar who "resembled a preppy Count Chocula" and "put on his best 'I'm a douchebag' face'," right before calling her cutie.  Hi-larious! Best of all, it's a kind of humor that I think really resonates with the audience that Damico is targeting. And it's highly quotable, too; I will long hold fond memories of the phrase "it's a bedroom, not a Victoria's Secret".  At times it borders on the farcical and the ridiculous (almost cartoonish), such as when Teddy Roosevelt roars at Edgar Allan Poe who in turn screams like a little girl.  But this will 1) help it appeal to a broader age range, dipping into slightly younger groups and 2) provoke thought about the nature of death and the afterlife via humor. (Right? Totally).

And let's not ignore the fact that in addition to being hysterically funny, Damico's writing is just plain good.  She delves into some fairly interesting subject material: life, death, the nature of the afterlife, justice, family, belonging, loss, grief, responsibility.  And that's just what I can think of in the matter of a few seconds; I'm sure I could go on.  There's a lot for the mind to chew on in between all the wise-cracks; I know it was pretty thought-provoking for me.  I think that especially for the young adult audience, this particular take on death could prove interesting. I know that nothing mystified me more as a teen than the idea that someone could be there one second and gone the next. It still does.

Best of all, Damico is carving out new and interesting territory for herself in the realm of Young Adult fiction. There's not a dystopia, vampire, angel, werewolf, or wizard in sight.  Grim Reapers aren't exactly a new idea (there was the show Dead Like Me a few years back and probably other stuff), but Damico takes this to a new and exciting place.  And she does it very well, I can't wait for more.

P.S. Don't listen to reviews that whine about the pace of the ending. It was not sudden. It flowed well and made perfect sense within the happenings of the book. Nyah, so there.

  • So, go check out Gina Damico's webpage for plenty of snarky goodness! There's a cute video trailer for the novel if you scroll down to the very bottom. And don't forget to check out the bio!
  • While you're there, check out her blog, especially her latest post that could lead to a deleted scene from Croak if you play your cards right.
  • The sequel (Squeeeeeee!)? Yeah, it comes out in Fall and stuff. (Spoiler Alert: Do NOT read the summary for this book or you'll ruin the ending of Croak for yourself. You have been warned).

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for linking this in to Books You Loved. Have a great week.


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