Its clearly a young persons book and an interesting take on a 12 year old dealing with growing up and the pain of separation from her best friend who has a terminal illness. Rather than get sentimental LaValle's flourishing imagination takes the girls to a place that may or may not exist on an adventure of a zombie-ish kind.
I think this book and others like Neil Gaiman's Coraline are really interesting for youngsters like my daughter who are drawn towards the much more imaginative, often dark, transformational kind of ouevres. Its not what I read as a child, but I see not only what my daughter reads, but what she creates herself (including graphic novels) with different characters, more Gothic and avant garde (not even sure of the word to describe it) and wonderful in a kind of ghoulish way.
But if I had read this when I was a child, a teen, it would have changed that image of those types of books.
Lucretia is dealing with the illness of her friend Sunny as well as her own changing body. She is caught between times, as it is. She has a good home life - her family isn't rich, but LaValle does present a loving family - mother, brother, sister.
When Sunny returns home and a play date is arranged, Lucretia finds herself on an adventure, involving the Kroons - who inhabit the top most apartment that is never rented out.
LaValle writes women and girls so, so well. The interacts between Lucretia and her mother, between the girls, the use of the wigs. It's all so wonderful. And unlike some books the ending is a such a true ending, such a magnificent ending. It's such a beautiful novella - horror, emotion, life all swirled together and working wonders.
- Plot- or character-driven? Character
- Strong character development? Yes
- Loveable characters? Yes
- Diverse cast of characters? Yes
- Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes
Graphic: Child death, Cursing, Gore, Violence, Grief, and Death
Moderate: Cancer, Bullying, and Drug use
Minor: Addiction, Vomit, and Mental illness
The main character, Lucretia Gardner, is a 12-year-old girl living in New York City who has to deal with a very serious illness in her best friend. The story really is about the value of friendship and how far one would be willing to go for their friends, and in that regard it is a very touching story. The author talked in an interview on another site (and regrettably, I cannot find the link), that this is loosely based on his own sister's experience as a young girl.
I did quite enjoy the ethnic diversity in the story, and you hear some things about different backgrounds. It seems like there are so few authors who are willing to go there, making their characters raceless to avoid offending anyone, and it is about time that that starts to change.
Some parts of this story were utterly frightening, maybe in a good way, but frightening just the same. Still, the story was well written and I will be awaiting the next work, The Devil in Silver, from Mr. LaValle.
Even though this novella is quite enjoyable, it just doesn't work for me. I don't see for what audience Lucretia and the Kroons is written. I wouldn't let my kid read this: at one point Loochie exclaims "Thank God for cigarettes!". At no point in the story it is even remotely made clear that smoking is unhealthy and that it kills people. Who advocates smoking in a children's book? On the other hand, it doesn't seem written for adults either. The writing is terribly stilted and simplistic:
Alice grunted with the exertion but she made it. All the way across. Where Sunny crouched. (at about 69%)This would have been excusable had the novella been written from the viewpoint of Loochie, but it isn't. There is absolutely no reason to simplify your language when you're talking about children.
Because Lucretia and the Kroons seemed to have no purpose, I wasn't gripped by the story and didn't very much care about Loochie's perils. If you get killed by some hallucination you got from getting stoned while you're twelve, well, I'm not sure I care that much.
This paragraph contains spoilers for the ending.
SpoilerI found the ending extremely unrealistic and it bugged me to no end. I'm not talking about the fact that there is "proof" everything really happened. I'm talking about Loochie's mom committing her to a mental hospital just because she had one hallucination. What the hell? Who does that? Couldn't she just say, "Oh hun, I'm sure you fell asleep and you lost my wig some other time". She's just a kid! Kids do weird stuff and think they see weird stuff all the time. She's not bipolar. Hallucinating isn't even the main symptom of bipolarity, having manic and depressed episodes is.
Gah. The ending drags the whole novella down.
I wouldn't know who to recommend this to. You could pick it up if you're bored and you're looking for some zombie action? Or maybe this novella is meant to "push boundaries" and be "groundbreaking", which I don't see personally, but maybe you will.
It is a couple months before Sunny comes home, and the day of the delayed birthday celebrations arrives. Lucretia's mother goes out to lunch with Lucretia's older brother Louis, and Sunny is expected soon. Instead, someone from the apartment two floors up leaves something of Sunny's on Lucretia's fire escape, and Lucretia is led on an adventure through the upstairs apartment and into a world similar but different than her own. Up to this point, I thought of this as a children's book, but it quickly becomes more of a horror story. There are elements here of fantasy, and we find mental illness plays a role as well. There is a sequel to this coming out soon that continues Lucretia's story.
Here is the article from Everyday eBook: http://www.everydayebook.com/2012/08/victor-lavalle-author-of-lucretia-and-the-kroons-on-the-magic-of-childhood-friendships/?utm_campaign=SocialFlowTest&utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Tweet
"Being young doesn’t protect you. Horrors come for kids, too."
Okay, why have I never heard of Victor LaValle? If the rest of his work is like this novella, it should be on prominent display in every bookshop, and library, and topping lists everywhere.
I started this book expecting a horror story with all the trappings of the genre. Instead I was taken on a vivid stroll through the life of a little girl from Queens and how she was dealing with her best friend's imminent death to cancer. So, I was ready for some mindless pop terror and got my soul crushed and repeatedly stomped upon in the first 30 pages. I was honestly crying.
LaValle, be straight with us readers, how the hell can you write a 12 year old girl this well? How do you have this level of insight? I read YA all the time, most of it written by women, and the great majority of them can't capture how it really feels to be a young girl, and you go and do it... How?! I didn't even remember how it was to be 12, but you brought it all back, right down to the older brother making stuff up to scare me.
And just as you start settling into this girl's sad, but ordinary life, LaValle yanks the reader into the worst kind of horror there can be in a book: the one that can happen to anyone because it's real.
This novella is about 100 pages long but it had me checking all the windows in my place, freaking out.
As if this wasn't enough the book keeps your emotions on a roller-coaster, I was getting into the horror bit and I get yanked back into grief, then back to horror. I wanted to get away but here's the thing - it's so masterfully written it won't let you get away, you have to keep reading.
I felt the ending was a bit abrupt, everything explained but ultimately unsatisfying. But the thing is, that's how real life is, as well.
I highly recommend it to everyone. Seriously, give it a try!