Victor Lavalle is the award-winning author of three novels—The Ecstatic, Big Machine, and the forthcoming The Devil in Silver—and a short-story collection, Slapboxing with Jesus. Big Machine was the winner of an American Book Award and the Shirley Jackson Award in 2010, and was selected as one of the best books of the year by the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, The Nation, and Publishers Weekly. He was raised in Queens and currently teaches writing at Columbia University.
Lucretia and the Kroonsby Victor LaValle
From one of the most acclaimed young writers of fiction in America today comes a fast-paced and fantastical novella about a young girl’s journey into a dark netherworld to find her missing best friend. This eBook edition contains an exclusive excerpt from Victor LaValle’s new novel The Devil in Silver, about which Gary Shteyngart raves, “Literary horror just found a new master.”
Lucretia’s best friend and upstairs neighbor Sunny—a sweet pitbull of a kid, even as she struggles with a mysterious illness—has gone missing. The only way to get her back is for Lucretia to climb the rickety fire escape of their Queens tenement and crawl through the window of apartment 6D, portal to a vast shadowland of missing kids ruled by a nightmarish family of mutants whose designs on the children are unknown. Her search for Sunny takes Lucretia through a dark fantasyland where she finds lush forests growing from concrete, pigeon-winged rodents, and haunted playgrounds. Her quest ultimately forces her to confront the most frightening specter of all: losing, forever, the thing you love the most.
Lucretia and the Kroons is a dazzlingly imaginative adventure story and a moving exploration of the power of friendship and the terror of loss. This all-new novella serves as the perfect companion piece to The Devil in Silver, a thrillingly suspenseful work of literary horror that continues the story of Lucretia.
Advance praise for The Devil in Silver
“The Devil in Silver is the rare work that takes seemingly disparate parts and brings them together seamlessly into something entirely original. There is madness here, and it is infused with brilliance, and the result is a story that is as illuminating as it is entertaining.”—Mat Johnson, author of Pym
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Review originally featured on Bookluvrs Haven. This is a horror novella. That's right. This is not a kid's story. Not unless you want to give your kids nightmares when they go to sleep at night. It should have given ME nightmares! Lucretia enters a nightmarish land where one of her allies is a girl with no jaw. (I was actually going to post a pic to illustrate, but my stomach turned when I did a google search. I will spare you that and just leave it to your imagination.... It's too damn gross. I was trying to eat a sandwich too...) There are also dangerous zombie like guys that run around chasing her as she searches for her best friend, Sunny, who mysteriously disappears. Meet the Kroons. Not nice to meet you. Throw in some flying rats that will tear you to pieces, and weird landscapes, and it feels like our girl Lucretia is on a horrible acid trip. And to summarize..... Why haven't I heard of this author before now? I would definitely pick up another of his books. His level of originality and creativity didn't go unnoticed. And for all the dark imagery and characters, it was actually surprisingly touching. Because Lucretia is really hurting over her best friend's terminal illness. I shed a few tears, I will admit, as Lucretia fought to find Sunny in this nightmarish land, and fought equally hard not to let her go. Were the Kroons and this horrid land real? Or a young girl's imagination fueled by her intense emotional struggle with potentially losing her best friend? You are going to have to brave this book to find out. "Being young doesn't protect you. Horrors come for kids, too." How very truthful that saying is, in 'Lucretia and the Kroons', and in real life. *I received a eBook copy of this book for free to review from the author/publisher; this in no way influenced my review, all opinions are 100% honest and my own.*
Good characters, but not my cup of tea Lucretia Gardner and her best friend, Zhao Hun Soong, have a lot in common. Both girls are twelve years old and have nicknames (Lucretia is “Loochie” and Zhao is “Sunny”). They go to the same school and live in the same building in Flushing, Queens – in fact Loochie’s apartment is directly below Sunny’s. But there’s one thing they don’t share: only Sunny has cancer. Loochie wants to celebrate her birthday with Sunny, but this is impossible because Sunny is out of the state getting yet another treatment. When Sunny finally does return to Queens, she is so sickly that Loochie has to beg to spend time with her. The day they are supposed to hang out, Sunny disappears and a very creepy, deformed person comes to lead Loochie to her best friend – but it means going into apartment 6D, which is supposedly haunted by the shells of former crackheads. What Loochie finds in 6D can only be described as a horrifying nightmare, but she must fight through it to save her friend. Author Victor LaValle has certainly created a dark world for his preteen characters to inhabit. LaValle does an excellent job portraying the strained friendship between Loochie and Sunny as well as the girls’ emotions regarding cancer and death. I can see readers who have watched a friend suffer through any serious disease relate to Loochie and her desire for her friend’s healing and for things to just go back to how they were before. But when the story turned more towards fantasy with the Kroons in apartment 6D, it got too dark and nightmarish for me. I did enjoy the author’s writing. He used some good descriptive phrases, such as describing the cool girls at school as “clumped together like socks that had just come out of the dryer.” I also liked the idea he proposed of hell and heaven as places we could access from earth. He has Loochie wonder about hell and ask, “why couldn’t [it] be located in a sixth-floor apartment […]?” And he presents heaven as a baseball stadium. Sunny describes it like this: “Everyone who makes it inside is at peace. It’s bright and warm all day. You can take a seat in the stands or run around with other kids down on the field. There’s no pain in there. No need for hospital visits. Doesn’t that sound nice?” This passage is particularly heart-wrenching coming from Sunny and seeing what her life has degraded into due to her cancer. For her, heaven is simply living a normal childhood. And the author’s descriptions of the horrors Loochie encounters are truly the things of nightmares, with a playground full of abandoned toys left by vanished children, people with slack faces and no jawbones chasing after her, and mud so thick and deep that she nearly drowns in it. I guess that was the author’s point in writing the story – to scare the reader – but I didn’t enjoy that part of the story. That doesn’t mean the intended audience won’t like it, but hopefully they will be prepared for the darkness they are getting into when reading this novella. I would definitely recommend it for the older middle-grade reader due to the subject matter.
Okay, so this is a pretty unique story. The first half is set in the real world with Lucretia, nicknamed Loochie, having a birthday party for herself. She loosely fits in with three girls who I have to say are real snots who her mother has invited to her house for a party. It doesn't end well. Loochie throws them out calling them whores. She puts her ice cream cake back in the freezer and tells her mom she'll celebrate her birthday when her bestfriend, Sunny comes home from cancer treatment in Tennessee. Months later, Sunny comes home and Loochie is in denial. She sees how frail her friend is, how hard she has to work to breathe, but she still thinks her friend is coming down to spend a few hours with her and they'll celebrate her birthday. While waiting her brother drops by to pick her mom up for lunch. He tells her about the Kroons in 6D who snatch little kids and burn them up. That they almost got him one time. He tells her, "Being young doesn't protect you. Horrors come for kids, too." Loochie's mind is focused on the Kroons as she listens to sirens wail up the street and stop at her building. She knows there are a lot of old people in her building and wonders who they came for. It never enters her mind that it could be for Sunny. Circumstances lead her to the fire escape again where she sees Sunny's grandmother bent over with wracking sobs. The Kroons have Sunny and Loochie is on her way to get her back. In through the window she goes and immediately her belt and shoes are snatched off of her by a strange man with a dented face. She gets loose and thus begins her journey into the strange land of 6D. There is a park there, the one she and Sunny always visited, Flushing Meadows. And though it's a bit askew, it is their park and she knows exactly where to find Sunny. She is chased by the Kroons but escapes several times and comes to the Playground for Lost Children. There isn't a child in sight. Just abandoned toys all over. And she wonders if this is where Sunny and all the other sick children go. But there are no bones. So she doesn't give up hope. And that is where she and Sunny are reunited. Sunny is fiesty as ever and they outrun and outsmart the Kroons with the help of one of the other Kroons. Slowly, as they spend their remaining time together, Sunny explains that she is headed to the Shea, a stadium where kids spend eternity running around sitting wherever they want, never sick. She even thinks her hair might grow back and she'll never have to get more treatments. Loochie asks her to stay, asks her "Don't you love me?" And Sunny asks the same. It's a time of transition, of letting go of Sunny. There is a lot of symbolism in the novel even as they battle the Kroons. It's a unique story, a prequel to The Devil in Silver, an adult novel, but I think it can stand alone. The last few pages seemed to be tacked onto the story as an after thought and felt a little jarring. Like it hadn't been written by the same author. Lucretia had been written so tenderly and carefully, her time with the Kroons so thoughtfully and symbolic, I just felt the last few pages could have had the same effort put into them. I was asked to review this by Random House publishing. I received a copy for review from NetGalley. I was not compensated for my review. The opinions in my review are my own. Heather
What I loved: - The writing style was very basic, simple and clear. - The story is told from the author’s point of view, which was fitting for the story because we get to see the big picture and know how all the characters in a particular scene are reacting. - The real story here is very touching and real. I think the book tries to deal with the fact that even children have losses and fears that can affect them very badly (I know that from personal experience :)). This book dealt with this issue very well in a very simple, direct and sad way. - The characters were all realistic. There’s a huge part of imagination added to the story which only made it more believable because children deal with such traumas in a very imaginary way. I could relate each and every character in this book, even The Kroons, to someone real I know in real life. - The ending left me speechless and asking for more. - And finally, it’s a novella, which I think was perfect for this story. What I disliked: - Cigarettes, smoking and drugs are mentioned several times in this book with minors under 13 using them and saying at one point that smoking the cigarette helped. It would’ve been nice (if not better) to say that drugs and smoking are bad and deadly for any person let alone a 12 year old girl. There’s no mention of the deadly effects these things do to everyone. The characters: Lucretia (a.k.a Loochie): The main character in this book. She’s twelve years old and lives with her mother. You can say she’s an outcast and nobody wants her in their circle so she has one friend only. Loochie has a very strong relationship with her best friend, Sunny, and we can see her loyalty, love, strength and determination when Sunny goes missing and she goes after her to bring her back. I really like her, because for a twelve year old girl she’s very smart and brave. Zhao Hun Soong (a.k.a Sunny): She’s Loochie’s best friend and cancer patient. She loves Loochie so much that she wants to take her along for the journey. Toward the end, Sunny starts to express her distaste for her condition and the medication. The Kroons: They are people who used to be normal but a long time ago, before they started using a drug called Crack which turned them into monsters and now they can’t live without it. Other people worth mentioning are: Loochie’s mother, who works all day and raises Loochie by herself. Lois, Loochie’s older brother. He doesn’t live with them anymore and has no longer a strong relationship with Loochie since he moved out. Conclusion: This was a fantastic short read. It was sweet, sad and realistic. I hope I can get my hands on the sequel novella, The Devil in Silver, which comes out August 21st of this year. I recommend this book to anyone who loves realistic fiction, horror, short stories with great storyline and dealing with real issues.
Central to this novella is a 12-year-old girl named Lucretia but this is no story for children. In a flight of fancy, LaValle explores how a child might cope with the death of a friend, a best friend, and these two children both capture the reader’s heart. Not all of us suffer this kind of loss at such a young age and I have to wonder if, perhaps, the author did. How much Loochie loves Sunny is evident and endearing and the scenes of what’s going on with Sunny are heartbreaking, especially because they let us know what is most probably going to happen. Even knowing that, I couldn’t help admiring Loochie’s absolute belief that she could save her friend when Sunny goes missing. Despite the fearsome Kroons and winged rats and all sorts of fantastical frights, Loochie presses on and her bravery and steadfast loyalty are a lesson to anyone who has to face such a terrible loss. Lucretia and the Kroons is my first taste of Victor LaValle‘s work and I’ll be looking for more.
Lucretia is a young girl, trapped by her life in a world she doesn't really understand or want to be part of. Her best friend, Sonny, is dying. Her other "friends" tease and mock her. She has a dream? Drug trip? Psychotic break? the day her friend Sonny dies. She knows Bad things happen to Kids. A difficult book to read, but holds your attention like a train wreck in slow motion. To see the beginnings of a descent into madness is hard, but fascinating.
I thought Lucretia and the Kroons was so amazingly thought out and original, what an adventure. You may think that you know what you are are getting into when you start this novella, but you don't...not even close. I was taken on a nightmare journey with Lucretia in shadowland portal in search of her best friend who was kidnapped. This quickly paced and exciting adventure will keep you turning pages and reeling in the end. After you read Lucretia and the Kroons will will want to read The Devil in Silver. A 4 star read.