If you took a dark, blood-dipped fairytale and pumped it up on drugs and set it in the pacific northwest in the mid-90s, you might end up with something similar to Grace Krilanovich’s debut novel, The Orange Eats Creeps. The unnamed narrator, a seventeen-year-old girl vampire with ESP, travels with a band of teen hobo junkie vampires as she tries to locate her lost foster sister. Like the lives of the hobo vampires the story drifts away from a murky past toward a murkier future, careening from things painfully “real” (men in public restrooms, for instance) to eerie visions of things as bizarre as snakes with cat fur. This is a world of creepy convenience stores and sinister highways, of wild rock concerts and hard drugs, and it’s peopled by teens who are both more alive and more dead than everyone around them.
This is not an easy book by any means. Krilanovich writes in a stream of consciousness style, and jarring scene shifts often occur in the middle of paragraphs. But it works. You’re not just asked to read about a character, but to inhabit a character. You’ll feel this book, somewhere deep in your gut. These days every other book is “raw” and “searing,” but this one actually is–raw like a gaping, gory wound, but also occasionally (and tragically) beautiful.Here, I’ll give you a taste:
“She was more dead than the rest of us, the deadest. Her hair fell in shafts of light through my fingers. In the reflection of her eyes I could see my heart, bursting. I grew up next to her body, came of age in a series of heartbeats when she said the syllables of my name.”
Beautiful, isn’t it?