Posts Tagged With: diversity

“Lucretia and the Kroons” by Victor LaValle

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.

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Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Horror/Gothic | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Tankborn” by Karen Sandler

Back in June, I won a giveaway at The Book Smugglers for Karen Sandler’s novel Tankborn and its sequel Awakening.  The books are from Lee & Low, a new publisher focusing on multiculturalism and diversity in children’s and young adult literature.  Their mission is something that I fully support, and it’s especially heartening to see some of their science fiction and fantasy offerings.

Kayla is a GEN, short for Genetically Engineered Non-human.  The GEN don’t have parents in the traditional sense; they’re born using a tank and then fostered.  When a GEN is 15, he/she is given their Assignment, sent to work as slaves for the humans on Loca.  The GEN are marked by prominent tattoos on their faces, making it impossible to be mistaken for another social class.

Kayla’s friend Mishalla begins her Assignment first, but finds that something’s amiss.  Her task is caring for low-class (but not GEN) babies, some of whom have been injured.  Mishalla realizes that everything isn’t as it seems, and that the humans she works for are involved in something shady.

As Kayla begins her own Assignment, she begins to question what she’s been taught about the roles of the GEN and humans.  She meets an upper-class human teenager named Devak, and the two begin to fall in love.  Personally, I found Devak to be a bit insufferable for most of the book, but it’s understandable because he’s a teenager who has led a relatively privileged life.  For most of his life, the plight of the GEN was something that could easily be ignored, and even though he’s always been kind to the GEN, it wasn’t until meeting Kayla that he really started to get it.

Sandler uses Kayla and Devak’s story to explore how racism can become ingrained in culture.  The social classes in Tankborn are rigidly enforced, and appearance is a major determinant of one’s social position.  GEN do go to school, but their lessons are geared toward their capacity as workers.  Even the GEN religion points to fulfillment only by serving humans.  The GEN and the upper classes are taught that there are major differences between them, and that even touching one another can have serious consequences.  Kayla and Devak both have to challenge their prior assumptions and take risks to be together.

Overall, I’m a big fan Tankborn.  Kayla and Mishalla’s intertwined plot lines are filled with mystery and intrigue as they discover the real history of the relationship between the GEN and humans and fight to break down the social barriers between them.  I can’t wait to read the sequel.

Categories: Fiction, Sci Fi, YA | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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