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Lucretia and the Kroons
By Victor LaValle
Spiegel & Grau
Victor LaValle's Lucretia and the Kroons is a frustrating reading experience, because it's full of great ideas that are mostly handled poorly, or at the least with poor material added to either side of the great idea, so that what could've been a tight little alt-horror tale instead became a rambling thing that made me frown a lot while going through it and say to myself, "Oh. Really? That's the direction you're going with this? Ugh. Okay." A literal Poor Black Child In The Ghetto story, our titular hero is a precociously holier-than-thou and Dickensian-put-upon little girl in a Queens housing development, where I guess supposedly there used to be a family of crackheads in the apartment upstairs? Who, like, all died grisly deaths and then became ghosts or something? Or are, hmm, I don't know, like abducting human girls and taking them to this weird alt-history J-horror fantasyland version of New York City? Or maybe they're some alien race who were only posing as crackheads to fool people in the real world? Or, uh, something? That's a major problem with this ambitious but messy manuscript, that LaValle quickly seems to lose track of what he's trying to say in the first place, bouncing from one random horror trope to the next like a pinball (and including some pretty bad non-horror cliches as well, including The Best Friend With Cancer, the Overworked Single Mother, the Older Brother With Complicated Family Relationship and more), none of it ever quite fitting together into a consistent internal mythology. It's got some great mental images, and certainly LaValle's to be commended for the grand scope of what he tries to pull off; but this is more of a miss than a hit in my opinion, an admirable but scattershot experiment that will hopefully lead to stronger and more mature work from this promising writer.
Out of 10: 7.7