I received a copy of Victor LaValle’s novella Lucretia and the Kroons through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The novella is a companion prequel to LaValle’s full-length novel The Devil in Silver.
Twelve-year-old Lucretia Gardner (Loochie for short) is excited at the chance to have her best friend Sunny over for a late birthday celebration. Sunny missed Loochie’s real birthday celebration because she has cancer and was in the hospital for treatments. Right before Sunny is supposed to come over, Loochie’s brother tells her a story about the Kroons, a family of crackhead monsters living in unit 6D who snatch children.
“I don’t know why things like that have to happen to children,” Louis said quietly. “But being young doesn’t protect you. Horrors come for kids, too.”
When Sunny doesn’t show up, Loochie knows what she must do. She must travel to unit 6D and face the evil Kroons who abducted her friend.
The sinister and nightmarish world beyond the doors of unit 6D serves as a backdrop to Lucretia’s deeper struggle, coming to terms with her friend’s condition and learning to move on.
It is always heartening to see a more diverse world in speculative fiction. Lucretia and the Kroons is a perfect example. Lucretia is African American, and Sunny is Chinese. The story takes place in an apartment building in Queens, and the monsters are suited to an urban environment. For example, while in a park in unit 6D, Loochie battles flying rats with pigeon wings. The horrors imagined by Victor LaValle are equally as scary as more traditional monsters, and are without a doubt a product of hellish alternate version of New York City.
The ending of the story leaves more questions than answers. It didn’t feel organic, but rather like a way to set the stage for The Devil in Silver.
If the theme of the book wasn’t so horribly depressing (and let’s face it, cancer always is), I would have enjoyed it a lot more. Lucretia’s adventures in the land of the Kroons were action-packed and filled with suspense. However, readers quickly realize the message that Loochie is there to learn. Bad things can happen even to children. The Kroons are a metaphor for the cancer that is ravaging Sunny.
At only 102 pages, Lucretia and the Kroons isn’t a particularly long read, so if the premise sounds interesting, then by all means give it a try. Even though the book was more depressing than I generally like, I give LaValle credit for an unusual and imaginative story.