"Lex wondered, for a fleeting moment, what her principal's head might look like if it were stabbed atop a giant wooden spear."
For her first 14 years of life, Lex was a good student. Model, even. But in the last two years, she's turned vicious and angry – and even she doesn't know why. Fed up with her behavior, her parents send to live with her uncle in upstate New York for the summer, hoping that work on Uncle Mort's farm will help her settle down. But "Uncle Mort's farm" isn't a farm at all. He's a Grim Reaper and he thinks Lex has the potential to join the business.
Lex quickly settles into the work – except when she encounters a murder victim. Then the guilty start to inexplicably die and Lex becomes obsessed with finding out why. But if she succeeds in catching the killer, will she stop them or join in?
My thoughts: I love the premise of this book and as a first published novel, Damico has made a solid start. Some of the characters fell a little flat for me – I was expecting to see Lex grow more than she did over the course of this novel, but with more to come, perhaps Damico has chosen to space out the character development a little more. I love the town, the system, the work that the Grims do, but Damico makes occasional aside commentary on Teenagers As A Whole that I suspect would have irritated me at 17. That said, there's plenty of sarcasm and funny moments in the book. Anyone who's ever been inexplicably furious with the world will relate to Lex and I do like that she doesn't magically "outgrow" adolescence in the space of 3 months, which seems to be a trend these days. It's fast-paced, full of puns, and it doesn't sanitize growing up.
Readalikes: Scorch is the next in the series. The internet recommends Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, a series about a college dropout who finds he has necromantic powers. Elsewhere by Zevin features a protagonist in the afterlife, fighting to mature in a world that causes you to age backwards. Mort by Terry Pratchett is a hilarious book about Death taking an apprentice.