Named a Most Anticipated Book by Autostraddle, Lambda Literary, Ms., Independent Book Review, LGBTQReads, and more
Goodreads, A Buzziest Debut Novel of the Year
"What would 1984 be like if Winston Smith had an endearing personality? Crane’s book gives us a disarming model for life under surveillance. Kris’s voice is everything in this novel—she’s a morose, prickly, paranoid yet lovable narrator with exquisite comic timing . . . I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself is a meditation on those precious acts through which Kris finds her way: the joy of queer parenting and chosen family, the beauty of forgiveness and the resistance inherent in expansive love." —Lydia Kiesling, The New York Times Book Review
"A proponent of prison abolition, the author couldn’t help diving into its potential aftermath under a system that might never shake the impulse to punish and banish . . . Equally central to the novel is an exploration of how grief changes people—the way it can become a personal apocalypse, irrevocably separating 'before and after.'" —Lorraine Berry, Los Angeles Times
"There’s a lot going on in Crane’s hard-to-classify, hard-to-put down debut novel, but at its heart, beneath the gorgeous sentences and gallows humor and speculative-fiction machinations, it’s a survival story." —Patrick Rapa, The Philadelphia Inquirer
"[An] electric debut . . . This book is as sexy as it is dystopic, which is saying a lot." —Emma Specter, Vogue
"Phenomenal." —Marissa Higgins, Daily Kos
"Fans of Black Mirror will enjoy this novel set in a world where those charged with a crime won't face incarceration, but instead gain shadows which follow them around as a constant reminder of their wrongdoing, while also serving as a warning to others." —Milan Polk, Men's Health
"Sharply-rendered . . . Interspersed with humor, warmth and love . . . Deeply hopeful . . . A reminder that no matter how dire the circumstances, we still have each other." —Kendra Sitton, San Diego Magazine
"This singular debut offers a fresh peek at our dystopian future, one in which wrongdoers carry around extra shadows as reminders and warnings of their misdeeds." —Karla Strand, Ms.
"A force . . . A journey of rage, healing, friendship, family, love, and in many ways, coming of age . . . An immersive and propulsive story with characters who are deeply human in their vulnerabilities and their resilience." —Sarah Neilson, Shondaland
"A thought-provoking, inventive examination of queer motherhood, forgiveness, redemption, punishment, surveillance, and so much more . . . It’s a brilliant, disturbing read, yet full of heart, love, and found family." —Margaret Kingsbury, BuzzFeed
"While there are obvious comparisons to dystopians like The Handmaid’s Tale or The School for Good Mothers, there are shades of Station Eleven here as well . . . I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself is a book that will stay with me for a long time. It’s a unique and nuanced read that you won’t want to put down." —Alex Faccibene, Geek Girl Authority
"Elegant . . . The novel stands out in its poetic reporting on the everyday experience of living under incessant observation and enforcement." —Aram Mrjoian, Chicago Review of Books
"I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself contains multitudes: dry humor, vibrant characters, unapologetic queerness and eroticism, the political manipulation of safety and respectability, the push and pull of mother-daughter relationships, and the questioning of what one says (and doesn’t say) to those one loves most. It is, in sum, a book about guilt, grief, and forgiveness—the hard kind you have to give yourself." —Tara Campbell, Washington Independent Review of Books
"A hall-of-famer . . . I’ll ride for this book forever. It’s not just that I want all of you to read it; it’s that I want all of you to have read it already, so that I’m not so alone with the enormity of my feelings about it and you’ll already know exactly what I mean."—Yashwina Canter, Autostraddle
"Engrossing . . . Like much of the finest near-future science fiction—including George Orwell’s 1984 and Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report—Crane’s novel shows how disenfranchised individuals can resist and subvert authoritarian powers . . . By centering the novel on a touching, intimate story of a queer family searching for freedom and happiness against all odds, Crane uses speculative fiction to ask how we, too, can create new, more liberatory futures in our present moment." —Daniel Spielberger, Them
"A not-so-cautionary tale about America’s poor treatment of marginalized people and how it would take little for the country to tip over into fascism . . . A ferocious, passionate novel about the importance of community, of family (not necessarily biological), of allies who are willing to stand against oppression and hate." —Ian Mond, Locus
"The book is speculative in the way that Octavia Butler’s Kindred is speculative: the premise pushes on the limits of reality only to bring us closer to understanding our own relationships . . . In a fragmented and intimate style that evokes writers like Sheila Heti and Jenny Offill, Crane allows Kris to explore all the corners of grief, love, desire and hope as she finds a way to forgive herself and reinvent her family’s form." —Rebecca Ackermann, Electric Literature
"Mesmerizing . . . I was highlighting sentences in this book before I was ten pages deep . . . Reading can sometimes be an unexpectedly physical experience, and reading I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself was one of those times for me . . . One hell of a debut." —Molly Templeton, Tor
"There’s a deep intimacy to the way Crane tells this story . . . Reading I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself feels like paging through a beautifully rendered therapy exercise that was designed to remain in the closed-door confines of the psychiatrist’s room . . . Gorgeous, heartbreaking prose . . . This novel is so full of sharply observed gut-punches and painfully human truths (about love, loss, desire, bureaucracy, fear mongering in the media, loneliness, kink, queerness, and new motherhood) that you’ll be thinking about Crane’s magnificent, evocative phrases for a while . . . Equal parts queer, devastating, precious, and thought-provoking, I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself is an unforgettable experience, exploring what it means to be human and illuminating the healing significance of finding community in the depths of your despair." —Andrea Marks-Joseph, Independent Book Review (starred review)
"The beautiful, spare narration from Kris as she struggles with grief and motherhood delivers a deep emotional punch, lightened by dry humor and the hope in human connection. For fans of Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven and Veronica Roth’s Poster Girl." —Library Journal (starred review)
"A remarkable feat of speculative fiction, its premise so strangely familiar that to call it speculative feels like a misnomer . . . The emotional truths it untangles are so sharp that its intricate world building feels less like fiction and more like an excavation of the country we already live in . . . On the surface, it’s all explosive force; underneath, it’s introspective and intimate. And always, Crane’s prose is gorgeous . . . Some books have the power to wake you up, shake you out of the old and push you toward something new and exciting and a little scary. This is one." —Laura Sackton, BookPage (starred review)
"The author’s profound maturity shines as they interrogate the creation of family, criminalization, and queer resistance. Readers will be moved and electrified." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
An intimate, poetic debut that explores the complexities of grief and parenting set against the backdrop of an American surveillance state.
In the near future, prisons have been abolished, but a governmental entity known as the Department of Balance has installed surveillance cameras in every home, and a tyrannical president recently instituted a policy that punishes wrongdoers by giving them additional shadows, ostensibly to keep them accountable for their crimes by serving as constant reminders of their mistakes. These Shadesters are forced to live as second-class citizens, stripped of their civil rights and freedoms. Once a school social worker, the narrator, Kris, now sells self-help programs called mindcasts while trying to distract herself from the grief of her wife's death through watching reality television, drinking, and listing all the creatures she can think of with exoskeletons. The only thing that gives Kris the will to live through her devastation is her determination to raise her daughter, the precocious and imaginative Bear, who was born with a second shadow. Driven by Kris’ internal monologue, which is often addressed to the imagined presence of her wife, the novel candidly explores the anguish of grief while remaining deeply insightful and often bitingly funny, at times making asides in the form of wry pop quizzes and word searches. Reminiscent of the tenderly ironic confessional voice of Melissa Broder’s novels and the rendering of an eclectic community's search for connection and survival in Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven (2014), this novel skillfully probes the complexities of loss, love, and injustice. Writing fiction that convincingly leans toward hope is a challenging task, but Crane does so with self-assured, muscular grace.
An anthem for queer love and solidarity that rises above the dystopian cacophony.