Friday, April 26, 2013

Croak-Gina Damico

In Gina Damico's Croak, death, the afterlife, and teenage angst melt together to create a lackluster story about a 16-year-old grim reaper. Lex Bartleby is an aggressive teenager with a hot temper and a sharp tongue. When her violent behavior and bad attitude get her into trouble at her high school, her parents decide that it would be wise to ship her off for a summer to live with her Uncle Mort in an upstate New York town called Croak. Initially Lex is under the impression that she will be spending the summer engaging in some sort of farm labor, but her assumption was wrong-dead wrong. As it turns out, Uncle Mort is not a farmer but rather the mayor of a town that strictly deals in the business of delivering the souls of the dead to the afterlife. Lex quickly, yet hesitatingly learns the ropes of her new profession and becomes somewhat of a legend around the bizarre town, all while discovering meaningful things about herself and maturing beyond her overly aggressive tendencies. Damico tosses a plethora of moral dilemmas Lex's way, which simultaneously forces the reader to make contemplate the rightness and wrongness of certain situations and mull over all of the gray area in between.
In terms of story, the plot is interesting and rich in imagination. Damico creates an entirely different reality, yet roots this reality within the confines of earth, giving the book a science-fiction feel that seems as though it could truly be something that exists. The characters in the book are well-rounded and complex, but still very easy to grasp onto and understand. I feel that this is a good trait for a YAL novel to have because it is important that a young reader is able to relate to the characters and be able to insert themselves into the story. 
My main issue with Croak resides in the voice of the narrator. Throughout the novel, the narrator feels pushy and needy of adolescent acceptance. It was almost as if they were trying too hard to be cool and with it. I found myself wanting to know who the narrator was and why their personality seemed to mirror Lex's without being Lex. What I mean by this is that the narrator is at times crass and obnoxious, but then suddenly wise and adult-like. It became distracting to me as a reader, as well as annoying.
I think this book is a decent read for the young adult, but may come off as patronizing and forceful to the average teenager. I know that if I picked up this book as a young adult, I would be suspicious of its intent and the message it was trying to convey.

3 comments:

Renee Thornton said...

I get what you are saying about the authors voice being needy, I have read a few YAL novels that sound like an older person trying to imitate youth. It's not easy to write like a teenage girl when you are 30 or 40 years old. This could definitely be problematic for young readers, if they don't trust the intentions of the narrator they will never get into the story. As a teenager that put me off more than anything else. Rather than following the story and feeling connected with the main character I was constantly reminded that this was not really the voice of a teenager at all.

Paustian Hjeck said...

EXACTLY

Laura Coyotl said...

The plot itself sounds good, even I would want to read something that has paranormal, like the grim reaper and souls. I do agree with you that if it the narrator is trying too hard to connect with teenagers it will do the opposite. Middle school and high school students do want read a book that they can relate to naturally without having to read something that is trying too hard to connect with them. Good job, on you summary, I liked how you gave your honest opinion of the book, giving positive and negative feedback. If you could you should add some links, to add more insight information about this book.