by Gina Damico

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Sixteen-year-old Lex Bartleby is a teenage grim reaper with the bizarre ability to Damn souls. That makes her pretty scary, even to fellow Grims. But after inadvertently transferring her ability to Zara, a murderous outlaw, Lex is a pariah in Croak, the little town she calls home. To escape the townspeople’s wrath, she and her friends embark on a wild road trip to DeMyse. Though this sparkling desert oasis is full of luxuries and amusements, it feels like a prison to Lex. Her best chance at escape would be to stop Zara once and for all—but how can she do that from DeMyse, where the Grims seem mysteriously oblivious to Zara’s killing spree?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780547927824
Publisher: HMH Books
Publication date: 09/25/2012
Series: Croak Series , #2
Sold by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 467,260
File size: 2 MB
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About the Author

Gina Damico is the author of Croak. She lives outside Boston, Massachusetts, with her husband, two cats, and a closet full of black hoodies. Visit her website at

Gina Damico is the author of Hellhole, Wax, and the grim-reapers-gone-wild books of the Croak trilogy. She has also dabbled as a tour guide, transcriptionist, theater house manager, scenic artist, movie extra, office troll, retail monkey, yarn hawker and breadmonger. A native of Syracuse, New York, she now lives in Los Angeles with her husband, two cats, one dog, and an obscene amount of weird things purchased from yard sales. Visit her website at

Read an Excerpt

Carl Scutner wondered, for a brief moment, what it would feel like to punt his wife off a cliff.
   "Would you shut up in there?" he yelled from the sofa. Between the noisy construction crew down the street, the whimpers coming from the dog cage that sat in the corner, and the pots and pans his wife was banging around in the kitchen, the baseball game on television had become nearly inaudible. "Jesus Christ, I can’t hear myself think!"
   Lydia appeared at the kitchen doorway. "Like there’s anything worth hearing in that so-called brain of yours."
   "Woman, I swear to God . . ."
   "Here." She handed him a fresh beer and sat on the edge of a hideous orange chair, its matted fabric dingy and stained. "Cubs losing?"
   Carl let out a belch. "As usual."
   Lydia looked down. Crumpled fast food wrappers littered the floor. A glob of ketchup had leaked onto the carpet. As the construction noises down the street grew louder, so too did the whimpers from the cage. She glanced at the telephone, then couldn’t stop staring at it. Her breaths became shallow.
   "They haven’t called, Carl."
   He took a drag from his cigarette. "They’ll call."
   "You always say that. You’re not always right."
   "Lydia. They’ll call."
   "They better," she said, wringing her hands. "I don’t want to do that again."
   "It’s up to them, not us. You know that."
   Lydia picked through her mousy hair with a trembling hand. She shot a resentful glance at her husband and his ever-expanding beer gut, then sniffed the air. "It smells like shit in here."
   "It is shit."
   Lydia looked at the dog cage, into the big brown eyes staring back at her. "Maybe we should let him out for a little while."
   "Are you kidding me? The last one got halfway down the driveway before I caught him." He took a swig of beer. "You’re getting sloppy."
   "I’m just—" She stopped and looked around. "Did you hear that?"
   "Hear what?"
   She listened. "I thought maybe—the back door—"
   "Alarm system’s on." He stubbed out his cigarette on the arm of the sofa. "Would you knock it off? You should be used to this by now."
   Unnerved, Lydia grabbed his empty beer bottle and walked into the kitchen. "At least let me feed the poor thing."
   Carl gestured at the bowl of kibble on the floor. "He’s fine. Too fat as he is, if you ask me."
   Four things happened next.
   The construction crew grew louder, so Carl grabbed the remote and turned up the volume as high as it could go. This just so happened to coincide with a home run, which prompted Carl to let loose with a torrent of obscenities.
   And so, as the living room erupted into a sustained cacophony, Carl never heard the bottle shatter on the kitchen floor. He never heard his wife’s tortured screams. And he certainly never heard the intruder enter the living room; in fact, he didn’t even realize she was there until she was right in front of him, her eyes peeking out from beneath a black hood, her nose almost touching his.
   "Hello, Mr. Scutner," she said, extending a thin, pale finger. "Goodbye, Mr. Scutner."

"I’m sorry you had to see that," she said a few moments later, opening the door to the dog cage. "Are you okay?"
   The little boy inside nodded his head, his eyes blurred with tears. She took his hand and led him across the living room, careful not to let him get too close to the scorching remains of his captors.
   "I have to go now," she said, grabbing a phone and dialing 911. "But I need you to be brave and do one thing for me." She handed him the phone. "Just tell them who you are and that you’re at fifty-one Forest Drive. Then go sit out on the front steps. Can you do that?"
   He wiped his nose and nodded.
   "Good boy. And don’t tell anyone I was here." She smiled and raised something that looked like a knife. "It’ll be our little secret."

The news reports that aired later that night were confusing, to say the least. A married couple by the name of Carl and Lydia Scutner were found dead in their home, victims of an apparent murder-suicide. All evidence pointed to the fact that they were the suspects the police had been hunting for a while now, the monsters responsible for kidnapping and holding for ransom at least a dozen children from the suburbs of Chicago over the past six months. Small, fresh mounds of dirt in the backyard indicated that a few of those children had never been returned.
   No cameras were allowed inside the house. Too gruesome, the police said.
   The little boy was clearly still in shock. The descriptions he gave of what had happened—the Scutners bursting into flames almost instantly, without burning a single other item in the house, only to self-extinguish a few minutes later—were too ridiculous to be taken seriously. The police smiled politely at his tales and ruffled his hair, while his parents were so overcome with relief that they barely listened to a word he said. And the media, clearly of the opinion that children should be seen and not heard, were perfectly content to snap photo after photo of the adorable tear-stained lad, yanking the microphone out of his face the moment he started to embarrass them with talk of spontaneous magical fires.
   No one listened to him. And it was about that time that the child realized why the girl had told him to remain silent: because no one would have believed him anyway.
   Who would have believed that his savior was merely a teenage girl wearing jeans and a plain black hoodie? Who would have believed that she simply appeared inside the house, set the Scutners ablaze with nothing more than a jab of her finger, and then disappeared just as quickly?
   No one.
   And so he kept the little secret.

"Looks like Zara’s at it again," the old bat’s voice crackled.
   Lex ignored this jolly piece of news and stared out the car window at the blurring foliage of the Adirondacks. The leaves were just beginning to change — a few splotches of yellow, a speckle or two of red. Though a chill had settled in the air, she had opened her window far wider than just a crack, and neither the loud gusts of wind nor the occasional chattering of teeth issuing forth from the passengers stuffed into the tiny back seat had prompted her to close it.
   "Keep it down, Pandora," Lex’s uncle replied into his Cuff, the staticky, ether-infused communications device around his wrist. "I’ve got rookies in the car. Don’t freak them out any sooner than we have to."
   "But this is getting ridiculous!" the voice rasped back through the Cuff. "First those mail bombers in Houston, then that rapist in Nebraska. Now kidnappers in Chicago! Ever since that little snake found herself a new scythe, she’s been going hog-wild!" There was a pause. "I guess we should count our lucky stars she hasn’t come after us."
   "Count our lucky stars? She found a scythe, Dora. Which means she also found an ally."
   "Which means," Pandora added, "that once again, we’re screwed eight ways from Sunday."
   They exchanged a few more words before hanging up. Uncle Mort glanced at Lex’s twitching eye, then turned his attention back to the road and absent-mindedly ran his finger up and down the scar across his face. "You okay?"
   This was precisely the forty-third time since they had left her parents’ house in Queens that Uncle Mort had asked her this. Lex had been keeping track.
   "I don’t know, are you okay?" she shot back, also for the forty-third time.
   After her twin sister’s funeral in New York City, Lex and Uncle Mort had gotten back in his cheddar yellow ’74 Gremlin and taken off on a road trip to fetch the rookies. And ever since they left, Lex had turned into such a jittery pile of nerves that she’d chewed through no less than fifty packs of gum. The constant supply of truck-stop coffees probably wasn’t helping, either.
   She just couldn’t turn off her brain. It toiled and hummed like a factory, ceaselessly churning out worries and concerns and the dreaded what-ifs. It never quit—not when they stopped for food, not when they’d gained two new passengers, not even when she slept. Or didn’t sleep, in her case. Most nights she just stared at the dingy hotel ceilings and picked at her long, dark hair, replaying what had happened, worrying about her sister, wondering what would happen now that they were almost back in Croak.
   In the car, she began compulsively flicking the cheap plastic lighter decorated with a skull and crossbones that Uncle Mort had bought her at a truck stop somewhere in Ohio. She was thankful that they were together, at least; Uncle Mort could be a pain sometimes, but in the way she imagined an older brother would be—annoying, but protective. And with the added benefit of being a total badass.
   He ran a hand through his black, electrocution-style hair, then shot her another concerned look and leaned over. "Do you need to stop?" he said in a quieter voice, in a tone that suggested he wasn’t talking about urinary demands.
   "No." Lex shrank in her seat a little. "I . . . discharged back in Buffalo."
   "Good girl. Should only be another hour or so, okay?"
   Lex sank farther into her standard-issue, thermoregulated black hoodie and pulled the hood over her head. The thought of having to discharge—even the ugliness of the word itself—made her feel so diseased. Fittingly, a hospital flew by her window just then, its stark concrete façade mocking her copious dysfunctions.
   She thought back to where she’d been nearly three months earlier: on her way to Croak for the first time with a rap sheet so long and terrible that her fed-up parents had decided to send her away for the summer to live with her uncle, in the hopes that he’d straighten her out. Of course, they’d had no idea that his idea of straightening her out meant informing her that she was a Grim and proceeding to give her a crash course on how to reap mortal souls. Not exactly the kind of thing one can describe in a pamphlet.
   It had started out so well, though. For the first time in years, Lex made friends; hell, she even snagged a boyfriend. And true, she didn’t agree with everything the Grimsphere stood for—letting murderers go free without punishment was at the top of her list, and she’d had more than a few urges to deliver her own idea of justice—but overall, it was turning out to be the best summer of her life.
   Until it all turned into a steaming pile of crap. The abnormal abilities that at first had turned her into the best Killer in Croak soon morphed into something much more sinister: the ability to Damn souls, a foul, unspeakable act that resulted in everlasting torment. And before she could even figure this out for herself, Zara—a fellow Junior, a Grim-in-training—jumped right in to twist it to her own advantage. Not only did Zara murder almost a hundred people under the radar all summer long, but she also devised a way to Cull Lex’s Damning ability for herself.
   She did this by using Lex’s twin sister, Cordy, as bait.
   And Lex had fallen for it.
   That wave of nausea arose yet again. Lex bent over to pick through the bag at her feet, her sister’s old backpack. In it sat a few clothes and Cordy’s old stuffed octopus, Captain Wiggles, along with two items Uncle Mort had invented just for Lex: a Lifeglass—an hourglass-shaped device that stored and recorded all her memories—and a Spark, a flickering glass bulb that measured her life force. The Spark he’d made for Cordy was in there too, although it was just a bright, glowing ball now—
   Lex gulped another breath, sat back up, and closed her eyes. This drive will be over soon, she told herself. You’ll be home.
   Because despite everything that had happened, Croak was still her home, and she loved it. The quaint streets, the rolling hills, the complete and utter lack of a Starbucks—all the things that she’d initially hated about the small town, she now missed with a burning passion. Being a Grim, traveling through the mind-numbing space that was the ether, Killing targets, delivering their souls to the Afterlife—it was what she was born to do, and Croak was where she belonged.
   It was the citizens in it that were the problem. Very soon she’d have to face the townspeople, whom she hadn’t seen since Uncle Mort had whisked her out of town two weeks earlier. What could she possibly say to everyone? They must hate her for letting Zara escape with the ability to Damn whomever she wanted, wherever she wanted.
   Still, she’d get to go back to the job she loved. She’d get to see Driggs and be kept up until two in the morning by his incessant drumming. She’d get to see her friends.
   Friends that she’d be putting in danger. And it wasn’t as if things were going back to the way they were. She’d have to be on her guard at all times. She’d have to control her vengeful urges even more vigilantly now. She’d have to find Zara and stop her.
   And she’d have to see Cordy.
   Lex anxiously shoved the lighter into her pocket. She couldn’t avoid her sister forever. Cordy was waiting for her, just on the other side of the great hereafter, and by now had undoubtedly learned that she was dead because her dumbass sister had been too stupid to realize she was being manipulated. Lex didn’t know what to expect. A cold, unloving stare? The silent treatment? The angriest bitch slap of all time?
   Lex grabbed the handle and cranked the window down as far as it could go. She stuck her head out into the frigid air, letting the wind sting at her face, futilely hoping to numb her thoughts.

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Scorch 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
lizasarusrex More than 1 year ago
I finished Croak, which is book one in the middle of the night and immediately started Scorch. The combination of death, and humor makes this a series I am putting in my favorites list. SPOILER ALERTS FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN'T READ BOOK 1 This book picks up right after Lex see's the death of her twin sister. Zara, a rogue reaper who has a serious vendetta against Lex. Things start to get really rough with explosions hitting Croak, so they head to DeMyse where they hope they will be accepted with friendliness, since they're leaving Croak on bad terms. Even as mayor, Uncle Mort only has so much power in town, but he's hoping his deep roots and connections with the other mayors will be enough to keep them out of danger. I find Gina Damico to be be an amazing writer, with a great sense of humor that had me chuckling from the late at night to the early hours of the morning. I highly recommend this to young readers, as it is a young adult book. Definitely a 5/5 from me.
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Book_Sniffers_Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We pick up shortly after Croak left off. Lex is still dealing with the loss that took place in the previous book. She’s not the same old snarky Lex that we’re used to. She’s reserved, quite and a bit sulky. However, it doesn’t take long for her to start to return to her old self, but she will never be the same. Not to mention she still has a killer she has to catch and the townsfolk of Croak have turned not only against her, but her uncle (who’s mayor) as well. The way the synopsis reads I thought that they would be on an adventure from the get go but that’s not the case. In fact they don’t actually head off to DeMyse until the last quarter of the book. The whole beginning of the book is the fallout of what took place in the last book as well as developing a little bit more of the story and mystery. Again, Gina is amazing when it comes to creating interesting characters. We get two new characters added to the ranks of reaper, Bang and Pip. Bang doesn’t talk, instead she signs in her own way (not ASL) and Pip… well he’s a motor mouth. He talks a mile a minute and doesn’t have an off switch. The two new characters definitely added a little something to the table. Plus, we get King Tut! I mean… how many books have you read where King Tut is in it? I bet you didn’t know that he could bench press a camel named Lumpy? HAH! See that right there is why you must read the book. Gina is one crazy chick and her awesomeness shows in her writing. Again, she leaves us with another cliffhanger. However, it works because it ends this chapter in their lives and starts a new journey in the next one. However, there are a lot of questions left unanswered and I for one will be tuning in to Rogue to see what happens next. Gina has skyrocketed to one of my top fave authors with the two books that she’s wrote. I love the way she creates a story, doesn’t get bogged down with mundane details and give her characters so many various personalities that you wish they were real so that you could try to befriend them. Seriously, I want a psychotic Lex as my friend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This series is awesome! 264 pages. Keeps you reading. Recommend highly!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
crayolakym More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Janessa, Age 15 for Citybook Review Poor Lex is a Grim Reaper, as if being a teenager isn’t hard enough, and  has already made a major no-no when she accidentally gives her power of damning souls to Zara and then lets her get away. Lex quickly finds herself on the outs socially and only worsening as Zara goes on a damning rampage, leaving no one safe in the small town of Grims. Will she find the book in time that could save more innocent lives before it is too late? “…show the way to the cabin, or I swear to God I’ll feed you to the first bear that inevitably shows up to eat us.” This is a hilarious book that, excluding the grim reaper part, most teens can relate too. What puzzled me is how could no one see that Zara is blatantly killing people? At some point (sooner than later) you would think someone would figure it out. It is still a splendid read with quirky characters, teenage mishaps, and a wild adventure. *This book was provided in exchange for an honest review*   *You can view the original review at City Book Review & Musing with Crayolakym
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the best book I've read in awhile, and at the everything unraveled. Not gonna spoil anything, but Ms.Damico definitely pulled out all the stops with this. It was certainly an unexpected turn of events, and A LOT of plot twists! Cant wait for the next book! :3
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TheTwinsRead More than 1 year ago
Scorch is the sequel to Croak, and for those of you who haven't read Croak yet you should probably get to that first. I'll try my best not to spoil the first book. I'm not making any promises, but I guarantee that this book's a winner. First off, let me just say something about Lex and Driggs. I adored them both so much better in this book, they were so freaking cute, adorable and sweet and had quite a number of scenes that had me grinning, then laughing, then wanting more. Let's just say that I particularly liked this shower scene of theirs. It was hilarious. I wanted to hug them both. Damico's characters are just as dysfunctional and entertaining as ever and I think I fell in love with each and every one of them all over again-especially Ferbus, I really liked him. Anyway, Lex is back! And she's just as badass as she was in the first book, but you know, better. The story starts with our lovely Lex returning to Croak where, after the events that transpired in the first book, she was not received well. The townspeople treat her like she's a blight on their existence and basically shun Lex and her Junior friends and blame every little bad thing that happens to Croak on them. Norwood and Heloise were the worst of the lot and I wanted to reach into the book and slap them silly and do other nasty, violent things to them for picking on the Juniors and Mort, too (although, I can't imagine Mort getting picked on). In Scorch, Lex is still looking for ways to hunt down Zara and is following clues that lead her to this super secret book that holds well, secrets, obviously. But then things go horribly wrong and Lex, her Uncle and her Junior friends all flee to DeMyse to escape the chaos that is Croak. This is where everything takes a turn for the worse and Scorch took me on a roller coaster ride of suspense and heartbreak. When it ended, I really had to stop myself from slapping someone (I know, I know, I'm violent). Just when I thought it would all be okay, BAM, everything goes up in flames. It was intense and I loved every minute of it. Well, except Zara, I didn't like her, she's so consumed by revenge and power that she'll do anything to get what she wants, even to the point of Damning innocents and was really, incredibly frustrating at the end. Scorch is the utterly thrilling sequel to Croak, it's intense, it's heart-breaking and it's strangely funny, even if I did want to bash my head in when I read the ending. You definitely need this book in your life. - Nicole of The Twins Read duo
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shayrp76 More than 1 year ago
5 Stars *This is an advanced reader’s copy* *This is the second book in a series. If you have not read Croak you may want to skip this review.* I am not going to give a detailed synopsis of this novel for the simple fact that it is a sequel. Being a teenager is hard enough for Lex, but being a teenaged Grim Reaper adds more to the challenge. After Uncle Mort introduces her to Croak and all things reaper events start to play out that are beyond her control but that she must face. Along with her uncle and fellow junior Grims she must figure out how to stop the damning of innocents while on the run trying to prove her innocence. This one is as much (maybe more) fun as Croak! There is action, adventure, humor, romance and sadness all rolled up into one big ball. These characters, even the antagonists, have so much depth and texture. I want to hang out with these Grims. I could also be happy visiting those who reside in the Afterlife. These books really do have a little something for everyone and I don’t have a single complaint except that I am ready for the next one now! I will shout recommendations from the rooftop!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So this book legitly is the best book ever no spoilers here tho :p ill let u no now though.... this book will keep u on ur toes... u just wont b able to put it down- Enjoy!