Here’s how I’ve been introducing Croak by Gina Damico to my friends:
Me: Did you like the TV show Dead Like Me?
Me: You must read Croak!
While Croak by Gina Damico has a similar feel to the TV show, there are enough differences to make this story stand out on its own. Sixteen year old good girl Lex Bartleby is going through a bad girl phase, and she doesn’t even know why. She’s angry all the time, sparring verbally and even physically with classmates and teachers, until finally her family has had enough. They announce over dinner that Lex will be separated for the first time from her twin sister Cordie. Lex will be spending the summer at her Uncle Mort’s farm. Her parents hope a couple of months of honest, hard work will set her back on the good girl path. Cordie just wants Lex to survive the summer without punching anyone new.
Things no one knows about Uncle Mort:
- He doesn’t live alone.
- He doesn’t even live on a farm.
- In fact, he’s never farmed a day in his life.
- He’s the mayor of Croak, a small town in the Adirondacks.
- He knows why Lex has been acting like such a bad girl lately.
- Oh, and he’s a Grim Reaper.
Lex is immediately confronted with the reality of her Uncle Mort’s true profession when they ride into the town of Croak on the back of his motorcycle and he explains how everyone in the town is working the same job in one capacity or another. Every Croak resident helps transport souls from one life to the next: they’re Grim Reapers. Some are Killers, who touch a person just before the moment of death and release their souls from the doomed body. Some are Cullers, who finesse the freed soul into a special container used to transport the soul to the next world.
Uncle Mort tells Lex she has been acting out lately because it’s a sign of becoming a Reaper. While still trying to come to terms with everything, she is thrown into her new job as a Killer with her new Culler partner, Driggs, who’s also living with Uncle Mort. She’s immediately successful at Killing, which surprises all of her new friends and even intimidates a few. Reaping starts to take an emotional toll, though, as day after day our young heroine witnesses death to the old, the very young, alone in their homes or as part of a massive plane crash. Witnessing an endless string of deaths can really take the wind out of a girl’s sails.
Then people start dying who weren’t supposed to die. Worse still, some of their souls are being eternally trapped in their bodies instead of moving on to the next world. While it’s true these people had committed various unthinkable crimes against innocent people, Reapers are taught that no one deserves to have their soul trapped forever in their bodies. At first Lex thinks these people got what they deserved. But then Reapers become targeted, too. Lex and her newfound community realize that it’s up to them to put a stop to the rogue Reaper.
Voya reviewed this book as being, “Creepy and hilarious.” I have to say I agree. While the thought of dying makes many people squirm, the folks of Croak will win you over to the dark side.