Lucretia (Loochie) Gardner is a young girl living in Queens. She’s just turned twelve, and all she wants is for life to go back to the way it was. Her best friend, Sunny, has been battling cancer for months now. Loochie has always been a bit of an outsider, and life without Sunny has been very lonely. Things start to seem a little brighter when Loochie hears Sunny has been released from the hospital. Sunny lives a couple of floors above Loochie’s apartment, so the girls arrange to finally have some one-on-one time together.
At this point, the novella takes a turn towards urban horror/fantasy. Loochie’s older brother recently told her about the Kroons who live in apartment 6D. They were once crackheads who terrorized the building, and now they’re monsters who are boarded up in 6D. “Horrors come for kids, too,” he warns her ominously. Sure enough, as Sunny is making her way down to her friend’s apartment, she gets kidnapped by one of the Kroons. It’s up to Loochie to go rescue her.
There were times when this novella struck me as an urban version of Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls, which I read last year and loved. Both are written for children (Lucretia is marketed as young adult literature, but I’d categorize this more towards the older side of middle grade), both have confused young protagonists experiencing a period of cancer-related turmoil, both have elements of fantasy. And, I semi-mistakenly thought, both have protagonists who are working their way through certain stages of grief.
Thing is, there’s a twist in Lucretia and the Kroons that ends up making the novella not so much about grief, but about something else. I won’t say what that something else is because it would completely change the reading of the book. I will say that the twist dampened my overall opinion of the book (in all fairness, I’ve seen several responses to the book stating the opposite: the twist added a new dimension to the story for a lot of people). The novella is also tied in to Victor LaValle’s latest full-length novel, The Devil in Silver — which I haven’t read — so that could also be part of why I was left feeling under-enthused by Lucretia‘s ending. Things I do like about the book: it features two headstrong young girls of color, it addresses issues that impact communities of color, and it addresses grief in a way that’s accessible for young people. I don’t regret reading it at all, but I wish The Twist hadn’t been a part of it.
Lucretia and the Kroons was released on July 23, 2012 by Spiegel & Grau, and imprint of Random House.