By Victor LaValle
ARC electronic copy from Netgalley.com
“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.” (loc. 1107)
This little novella is about Lucretia and her best friend Sunny, who is very sick with some sort of cancer-type illness. Both girls are 12 years old. When it appears that Sunny has somehow ended up in apartment 6D, where Lucretia’s brother told her crack heads used to live in the 80s and stole children, Lucretia (Loochie) goes in to save her. Inside 6D live zombie-type people who fight over, track and seem to want to maybe eat Loochie. There is also a park and trees and basically an alternative world, similar to ours that Loochie runs through while looking for Sunny.
So this story was a mixed bag for me. I liked the middle of the story, even though a lot of the events don’t really make any sense in the alternative universe of 6D. But it was interesting and a little scary and I felt compelled to read to find out what happens next. Does she escape? What does she find? Why does it exist? You get the answers to a few of those questions. It is a dark, dangerous and deadly Alice in Wonderland type adventure which stretches together like dream events.
What I really I didn’t like was the removed almost clinical beginning and endings, they sounded like bad episodes of The Twilight Zone!
“For instance, take Lucretia Gardner, now turning twelve years old and having a party to celebrate. The party is to be held in the two-bedroom…” (Loc 126)
I can’t pull a quote from the end or it gives the big ole end away. But it is the same. This crazy, creative story was sandwiched in this odd, removed tone that made me feel like I was reading a reporting of events. And don’t get me started over the ending. Really!? The odd clinical tone, coupled with the ending, juxtaposed against this creative, wild middle of a heaven/hell fantasy just feels all jumbled up and annoying. Especially, since it feels like it should be for younger readers as this story is about 12 year olds and told in simple language, but the subject matter and plot is for adults. The ending completely squashed the creativity flat. I personally liked that the fantasy was Loochie’s way to deal with losing her friend, her way of coming to grips with what may come after life. The end. There is plenty enough reality in this story! But the author injects even more crappy reality and ends it there. What?! What a downer, and to what end, meaning, what does that teach us? Though I did find out that this is a prequel to another story, so perhaps athis is a big old set-up for something amazing to come. Prequels tend to bring about more questions than they answer, so perhaps that is the intention. Annoy the reader and maybe they will read the full story! It might work for me, not sure yet. Anyway, Twilight Zone entertained, it gave you a big shocker at the end, and so does this. So if you like Twilight Zone and adventurous creative stories, this is for you!
This book was easily read, enjoyable in parts, tells you where heaven is, at least in Queens and was quite creative. Many people have enjoyed it. I enjoyed it. But then I didn’t. How do you rate something like that? Honestly I have to say it was “ok with reservations” and give it 2 stars.