Grace Krilanovich, The Orange Eats Creeps

Grace Krilanovich, The Orange Eats Creeps

Difficult but fascinating.

This was a somewhat difficult book to read, for many reasons. But it was certainly an interesting book, as well. I have pretty high standards for books that keep my attention, and I read all the way through to the end on this one. That alone gives it a passing grade.

I was excited when I learned that The Orange Eats Creeps is set in the Pacific Northwest in the 90s, among street kids and runaways and junkies in Portland and Seattle and all points in between. Having lived through that era, it's a scene that has so much richness and untapped potential that has yet to be mined in the literary field. The idea of setting a story about a runaway teenage vampire in that time and place seemed most excellent.
 
Long story short, I was expecting Drugstore Cowboys, but I got Naked Lunch.
 
The book's biggest problem, as well as its most obvious attraction, is its hallucinogenic narrative which most reviewers dub "experimental." It is told in the first person, so the question isn't whether or not the narrator is unreliable. The question is exactly HOW unreliable she is. Does she really see a forest path lined with small brown birds vomiting up little blobs of goo? Is she really psychic, or is she just experiencing guilt-related hallucinations?
 
Once you start trying to tease out the truth, the whole thing unravels. There are very few things in the book that I would consider to be "facts." Maybe she isn't even a vampire after all. Maybe it's just a hallucination, or a metaphor, or ????? Is it just one long continuous drug trip? Or is this what life is like when you are a vampire?
 
At the very very VERY least, The Orange Eats Creeps gets major props for innovation. You have never read a vampire book like this before. You have never read a book that does to the traditional vampire story narrative what this book does. You have never read a vampire book with this particular perspective. And you probably never will.
 
The field of vampire literature is much of a sameness. For that reason alone, The Orange Eats Creeps truly stands apart from the rest.
 
Audiobook note: The narrator did what she could with this text, but it was a struggle not to slip into a monotone. A problem inherent to any narrative written in the first person perspective.