Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Take 5: Death Comes Knocking (YA lit featuring the Grim Reaper and Necromancers)

Croak by Gina Damico

Tired and desperate from a wide variety of behavior issues, Lex’s parent send her for some rehabilitation with dear old uncle Mort – who, it turns out, is a grim reaper.  It turns out, some of Lex’s problem behaviors may mean she is the perfect teen for the job.

Something Deadly This Way Comes by Kim Harrison

In this last book in the Madison Avery series (and really, you’ll want to start at the beginning), Madison is now the somewhat conflicted but not altogether unwilling leader of the Dark Reapers.  Book 1 is Once Dead, Twice Shy and book 2 

The Wrap-Up List by Steven Arntson  

 “Dear Gabriela,
You’ve been chosen for departure.  How about next Wednesday?  That gives you a week. Save a dance for me.
– Hercule”

Some people don’t die, they simply depart.  A note arrives from one of the Deaths and you are given a date and place.  You can put together a wrap-up list, a list of things you want to do before you go, and if you are lucky – maybe you can trick Death into giving you a pardon.  

Necromancing the Stone by Lish McBride

 “Slow down and explain to us plebeians. If you have to, use sock puppets.”
Lish McBride, Necromancing the Stone
This is book two, you want to start with Hold Me Closer, Necromancer.  Then read this one.  But DO read them.  They are fun, a great read for Buffy fans.  Basically, a slacker boy – Sam – finds out he is a Necromancer and finds himself part of a turf war with a strong and powerful necromancer who wants him capital D. E. A. D.  Sam learns about the turf war when he finds the head of the girl he adores from afar in a box on his front step – and it starts talking.  It only gets crazier from there. 

Death and the Girl Next Door by Darynda Jones


When 16-year-old Lorelei is saved from an accident, it changes everyone’s destiny.  And now she is being stalked, the question is by who and why.

What’s your favorite book featuring the Grim Reaper or a Necromancer?  Tell us in the comments.

Reaper Review: Something Deadly This Way Comes by Kim Harrison

The memory of fire trucks that existed only in the future seemed to haze over my sight as I looked across the busy road to the three-story apartment complex. Having watched-no, lived- Tammy and Johnny dying in a fire had more than shaken me. It had rocked me to my core. I’d thought that I’d made a difference, but all I’d done was made things worse. Josh, at least, got home safely. He’d been gone only five minutes, and I missed him already. I worried that he was going to drift away, looking for someone who wasn’t being yanked across the continent to save someone she didn’t even know, someone who didn’t have to lie to her dad all the time, someone who had friends other than angels- and someone who could eat a friggin’ bowl of popcorn with him. Why couldn’t I just be normal?

In the conclusion to this trilogy by Kim Harrison, we delve deeper into the chaotic life of Madison Avery, conflicted — although not entirely unwilling — Dark Timekeeper and default leader of the Dark Reapers.  She still disagrees with the practice of killing people before their time in order to save their souls, but does not know how to make the changes to the heavenly system that she thinks are necessary.  With the help of vaguely Light reaper Barnabus and pretty much Dark reaper Nakita, can she find a way to show the heavenly host that human choice has meaning?

Fluffy.  With spikes.  That’s what comes to mind when I think about this book:  Harrison’s rather goofy humor is threaded throughout, but the issues dealt with therein are very serious.  What is the meaning of human choice?  When is it okay to lie?  What does it mean to have a soul?  Given the chance to forget something terrible, would you?  Or, given the chance for normalcy, would you give up the chance to be either a stupendous success or an utter failure?

Rating:  4/5.

Written by That Guy.

Christie: Agree with all his points. Nakita and Barnabas make for a compelling read, and Harrison builds Madison’s world completely- including having a 17-year-old dark reaper still worried about getting caught in California past curfew. Recommend pairing with books like the Croak series, or Darnyda Jones’ series Darklight, or Christopher Moore’s A Dirty Job.

Reaper Review: Gina Damico’s Scorch and Croak

Lex Bartleby would be the first to admit that she has some ‘behavioral issues.’ When her violent tendencies and lack of impulse control finally push her parents over the edge, they ship this 16 year old miscreant off to spend the summer in the tiny town of Croak with her Uncle Mort. Despite the abundance of clues in nomenclature alone, Lex is surprised to learn that her uncle is not the mild-mannered farmer she has always thought, but a Grim Reaper. And so is Lex. It turns out that Grim Reaper is a job category restricted to individuals who are “one of a very select group of people who are endowed with the power to transport souls from this life to the next.” Lex’s Uncle Mort suspects that she has the same power as him. Individuals begin to show a certain ‘aptitude’ for the job in adolescence. The same aptitude that has been getting Lex into trouble at school – her uncontrollable and seemingly unfounded bouts of anger. 

While Lex is with her Uncle for the summer, she becomes an apprentice Reaper, training to become the real thing, complete with partner. You see, it actually takes two to harvest the soul of a dying individual. Lex’s partner is a real winner, the moody, taciturn, drumstick-weilding Driggs. Their rocky relationship continues to provide a major source of  humor in the novel, even as it turns from antagonistic to romantic.

It turns out that Lex has more than just an aptitude for being a Grim Reaper. She has an ability that hasn’t been seen in years. Unfortunately, this ability is matched by a growing desire to seek vengeance for the souls of the murder victims she is obliged to reap. And when some of these murderers begin to die, suspicion falls on Lex.

For a novel that relies heavily on snark and cliche, it is a surprisingly refreshing tale of adolescent angst and the search for self and place in the world. Complete with bad guys, mystery, intrigue, and cool weapons and supernatural powers.

Scorch picks up where Croak left off, and it’s a good thing, too, since Lex royally screws the pooch at the end of Croak. (I don’t want to give it away, but suffice it to say that instead of defeating the villain, she manages to donate her extra special powers to the villain’s cause. Whoops.) What follows is an epic road trip for Lex and her fellow apprentices as they try to catch the bad guy and prove to the other denizens of Croak that they aren’t, in fact, the evildoers themselves.

The third book in the series, Rogue, came out in September and will be top on my TBR pile once I have enough loose change to darken the doorway of my local bookselling establishment.

I highly recommend this series for ages 12 and up, especially where good storytelling with a heavy dose of snark is appreciated. Try it with some of your ‘I’m too cool to read’ patrons. They just might find, like Lex, that things are not always what they seem.

Book Review: Death and the Girl Next Door by Darynda Jones

I tapped the page with my fingertips. “And this is the page Mr. Davis was looking at. I remember. he’d circled a face with a -“

“Lorelei,” Brooklyn interrupted in a hushed whisper. Her finger slipped up to one of the photos bordering the main picture. In it, a crowd of students stood around the flagpole of the old high school. They were laughing  as though in disbelief, and I realized it was a shot of Mr. Davis’s brother. In what must have been some kind of prank, he and some friends had chained themselves to the pole and were holding a sign I couldn’t quite make out.

But they were laughing  too. Every student in the photo was laughing, except one. A boy. He was standing closer to the camera yet apart from the rest, his stance guarded, his expression void, and then I saw the unmistakable face of our newest student.

Jared Kovach.

I felt the world tip beneath me, my head spin as I stared unblinking.
“It can’t be him,” she said.

But there was no mistaking the wide shoulders, the solid build, the dark glint in Jared’s eyes.

“It can’t be him,” she repeated. 

He had the same mussed hair, the same T-shirt with the sleeves rolled up, the same arms, long and sculpted like swimmer’s  The only difference I could see in this picture was the tattoo. Two, actually. Wide bands of what looked like a row of ancient symbols encircled each of his biceps.

“It just can’t be, right, Lorelei?”

He was just as breathtaking  just as surreal. And somehow, it made perfect sense. I swallowed hard and asked, “What if it is him?”

“Lor,” Glitch said, shaking his head, “that’s impossible.”

“Maybe it’s his father, or even his grandfather.” Brooklyn glanced up. “Lots of kids look like their grandparents.”

“Think about it,” I said. “Think about all the things he can do.” I studied the photo again. The caption below it read, Taken the day we lost our beloved brother and friend.

“Wheat if it is him and hew as there the day Mr. Davis’s brother died.” I thought back to what Cameron’s father had said. “Cameron called him the reaper. Maybe he really is.”

“Is what?” Brooklyn asked, pulling away from me.

In hesitation, I pursed my lips. Then I said it, what we were all thinking. “What if he really is the grim reaper?”

Ten years ago, Lorelei’s parents disappeared without a trace, and she can’t remember anything about that day. She’s got her grandparents, her friend Brooklyn and Glitch, and starting sophomore year of high school, so things should be OK, right? Not when the school’s loner, Cameron, decides to start stalking her, and the new boy in school, Jared, seems to be instantly attracted to her of all people. When Jared changes the course of Lorelei’s fate, and with it his own, things start spiraling out of control fast. Can Cameron and Jared keep from killing each other long enough to protect Lorelei from an even bigger threat? And why is Lorelei the focus of it all?

Darynda Jones, bestselling author of the Charley Davidson series (First Grave on the Right, etc.) keeps to her paranormal roots in Death and the Girl Next Door.  Sixteen year old Lorelei has visions that she can’t control and keeps hidden from everyone- they aren’t all hearts and puppies, and the less strange she seems the better life is.  After all, she already lost her parents when she was 6, and that’s enough for anyone. All she wants is for high school to be semi-normal, and things to be OK. However, when super-tall Cameron starts stalking her day and night, and the unbelievably gorgeous Jared shows up at school interested in her, things start loosing their normalcy   And when Jared saves Lorelei’s life, he changes not only her destiny but his. Can Lorelei and her friends (both old and new) figure out who’s trying to kill her before it comes to pass?  Definitely alive with humor and wit, and readers of Jones’ adult series will recognize Lorelei’s banter and outlook. Sets up nicely for the next book, and keeps readers interested, although the instant attraction of Lorelei and Jared can turn some readers off. I’d pair it with books like the Hush, Hush series or Kim Harrison’s Madison Avery series (Once Dead, Twice Shy). 3.25 out of 5 stars.  As of March 22, Goodreads has Death and the Girl Next Door rated as 3.64 stars.

I really enjoyed this book, but I can see how some readers would be turned off within the first 50 pages (which is my threshold for staying with a book I’m not enjoying). Lorelei has definitely just turned sixteen, and her rambling viewpoint and conversations with Brooklyn fit right in with my sense of humor, but could be irritating to others (just as to me it’s irritating that the 9th Doctor gets no love what-so-ever, BTW). 

The instant attraction with Jared is something that is completely in character with a sixteen-year-old girl (hello, new hot boy in a small town), and unlike some other series that shall not be named *cough* sparkly vampires *cough* there is an actual relationship that seems to build. Jared learns that his actions have consequences that he didn’t think of, and learning to deal with the mortal realm takes time as well, while Lorelei is definitely standing up for herself, while trying to discover why she’s at the focal point of everything. Learning that Cameron is not entirely human only adds to the mix, and the surprises that her grandparents and others int he community have in store build up the importance of what Lorelei is, and the conflict that is coming. It sets up the next book and the series quite nicely.

I’m definitely interested to see where Jones is taking Lorelei and her crew.

Book Review: Death, Doom, and Detention by Darynda Jones

With new purpose, I worked the back of the frame off and took the picture into my hands. I was going to lean back against my headboard, take deep breaths, and concentrate. But the moment my fingers touched the picture, I tumbled inside. The sheer curtain drifted apart and I found myself standing in the hospital room while Mom and Dad studied the infant me.

I was sound asleep, probably due to lack of oxygen from being cocooned, as Dad wiggled my chin with a fingertip. “Just like my father’s,” he said, and I couldn’t have explained the pride that welled inside me if I tried a thousand years. My incorporeal chest welled in emotion.

My parents were right there. Right in front of me. So close, I could almost touch them. I wanted so much to run to them, to thanks them for everything. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, but could I breathe here at all? In this place of void?

I wanted to stand there forever and bask in their presence. It was like they were back. They were with me. But I had no way to pause the moment, and it slid forward despite my every desire to the contrary.

Mom stopped her cooing and looked over at Dad. “We should tell her when she’s older.”

I stepped closer. Tell me what?

Dad gave her a sad look. “It’s not our secret to tell,” he said, shaking his head. “Besides, what good would it do her to know the truth? To know that he’s alive?”

What? Who’s alive? What truth?

“I think I have this thing figured out,” a man said, and just as Mom and Dad looked up, the bright light flashed and I was back on my bed, the picture in my hands, Brooke mumbling something about duty and how spying was a noble tradition. Just look at James Bond.

In the second book in the Darklight series, Death, Doom, and Detention picks up where Death and the Girl Next Door picks up. Lorelei knows that she’s the Prophet and with her friend Brooklyn is trying to focus and harness her abilities in order to protect those that she loves and save the world. Meanwhile, Satan’s second in command took over her body when she was six, and living with that fact is a little daunting.  And she’s got a huge crush on the Angel of Death. But what is that when forces are still trying to kill her, and somehow they turn the most powerful being on earth against her?

Finally working on her abilities instead of ignoring them, Lorelei is working on expanding her abilities from passive visions to visions from photographs. With Brooklyn pushing her, she discovers that her parents were hiding secrets from the time she was born- but were they right to hide those secrets? And while Cameron and Jared seem to have solved their differences, the mysterious conflict between Cameron and Glitch continues to make things difficult. However, when Jared disappears then comes back turned, and their enemies draw closer and Lorelei’s visions grow darker, everyone must draw together in order to survive.  Definitely for those who have read Death and the Girl Next Door (you’ll be lost without it). 3.5 out of 5 starts. As of March 22, Goodreads rates Death, Doom, and Detention as 4.18 stars.

I had fun with Death, Doom, and Detention. Lorelei really grows within her character, and has struggles and hard choices that she must make: how far to take her powers, what to do with the visions she gets and how she can change them, and should she remove herself from Riley’s Switch to protect everyone? Extremely hard decisions for a sixteen year old to make, especially as she’s supposedly the only one who can save the world.

The fights between Cameron and Jared that punctured the Death and the Girl Next Door calm down to glares and verbal spats, but the tension between Cameron and Glitch kick up a notch, especially as there are repeated references to an incident at camp in second grade, but nothing is every fully talked about. And when Jared disappears for days at a time and comes back with his evil side in possession, watch out!

The book definitely ends on a cliffhanger, and makes you wonder what will happen in the third. There are many references to the demon that possessed Lorelei when she was six, yet there were only little peaks within this book, so it’ll be interesting to see where Jones takes it. Lorelei still has her trademark humor and way of thinking, which makes the ride fun.