Book Review: Rogue

Sunday, 9 March 2014 - 8:05am IST | Agency: dna

Book: Rogue
Author; Gina Damico
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/326pages
price: Rs453

Lakshmi Pillai
Rogue jumps straight into the action with a very brief recap of the end of the second book Scorch. Unlike its predecessors, it is rather grim. Well, a book on Grim Reapers must be grim; it should be doubly serious when the protagonist, Lex, is on the run from all of Grimsphere, her ability to damn souls (darken the soul that is killed, cursing it to a life of eternal pain and darkness with no scope of a happy afterlife) still intact.

It should be doubly serious since she has teamed up with the legendary Grotton, the only known killer grim reaper known to damn souls and crash with direction before Lex herself. It should be doubly serious because Lex has to undo all the mistakes committed by Grotton in order to prevent the afterlife (the place where souls go to after death, where they live happily) from eroding. And it should also be serious since she turned her boyfriend into a hybrid ghost (someone who can turn solid at will and wander on Earth aimlessly with no hope of entering the afterlife).

But when you've read Croak with enthusiasm and found Scorch an improvement on the first book, Rogue is bound to be relatively depressing. The end is depressing, the events are depressing. All the 'depression' however, doesn't reduce the brilliance of the novel. It is still witty and engaging thanks to Lex and Uncle Mort's fantastic repartee and, of course, Grotton's mean digs at people. Grotton might remind you of Peeves the poltergeist but don't get fooled because Grotton's plain bored. What else could you expect from a guy who's been a centuries old ghost bound to (and author of) the Wrong Book? (The Wrong Book holds all the secrets about Grim Reaping activities and loopholes in them.) No wonder, he decided to wreak havoc in the Grimsphere, train the now dead villain Zara and is responsible for the death of Lex's sister.

Lex, her friends, Uncle Mort and two ghosts, Driggs and Grotton, are on a mission to fight a dangerous conspiracy. Norwood is as villainous as always now that he's obtained the ability to crash (teleport to places without authorisation) from Lex. Sofi is the traitor... surprises anyone? The plot is actually quite guarded; you simply can't predict a twist unless it comes right at you. What keeps readers on their feet is the dialogue between the characters. Lex, perhaps the most uncharacteristic of all protagonists, who damns souls and spews expletives like she studied it along with the English alphabets in her kindergarten, is quite endearing, Grotton grows on you and Uncle Mort is as gifted as his niece in talkathons, albeit tempered with prudence and maturity. Elysia continues to be the warm, motherly figure to Lex and Pandora is as dynamic as ever, driving the Stiff (or as Driggs calls it Batmobile) with enthusiasm… psst she's past 50.

The Croak series is an interesting read for young adults bored of werewolves, vampires, witches and wizards and the mushy romantic stories related to these monsters. It is sharp, amusing and fun. The story begins with Lexington, a star-student-turned-unstoppable-delinquent who is sent to live with Uncle Mort (who she has rarely met earlier) in a village Croak. She finally meets her match in her quick Uncle who immediately introduces her to the Grimsphere — the jurisdiction of the Grim Reapers. Lex learns that she is a Killer type Grim.

The series deals with a new class of monsters and in quite a different way.

While it does fall under the category of monster literature as it does deal with the battle between good and evil, it is different from other stories given the ironies inherently present within the text. Damico uses several instances of the "alienation effect", introducing readers to a new world, presenting an unusual protagonist and equally unusual group of teenagers. Empathy is not immediately generated. Yet, the reader can comprehend Lex's comprehension of right and wrong and simultaneously frown upon it. Descriptions are minimal and most of the information is revealed through witty dialogue exchange and actions, giving no instance to the reader to feel bored. The love that develops is not typical simply because the people involved aren't; for example, Lex hits Driggs in her first meeting and he instinctively rewards her with a black eye.

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