The novel is episodic, and Crane plays with form by threading in pop quizzes and Kris’s somber facts about animals in captivity ... 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 ... Readers who like every mechanism and metaphor of control mapped out may be underwhelmed by the novel’s world-building, which is quiet. But the subversive intelligence of the book is its representation of the stolen pleasures and general unease of a hemmed-in life. The mood created by Kris’s interiority...makes questions raised by the sparsely rendered workings of the state largely irrelevant to the novel’s enjoyment ... 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.
I was highlighting sentences in this book before I was ten pages deep. Crane is also a poet, and you can feel the way their language has been pared down, sharp cuts made with precision and wisdom. The way Kris communicates her story is painfully, beautifully intimate, crushingly honest about her pain ... There are books you read—books that weigh in your mind, that linger and last—and then there are books that somehow seem to seep into your skin. Reading can sometimes be an unexpectedly physical experience, and reading I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself was one of those times for me: I would pick up the book, intending to read a few pages (without chapters, there is little reason ever to pause). And as I read, I would feel like my heart was inflating, a tiny swell with each golden sentence or breathtakingly crisp observation, until I had to set the book back down lest everything in me just burst.
Marisa Crane’s debut novel is a remarkable feat of speculative fiction, its premise so strangely familiar that to call it speculative feels like a misnomer ... An assured and surprising ode to queer family. It’s an untame story about motherhood and survival and the quiet, daily work of building a livable world. It’s about what humans can bear and what we can get used to, about the choices we make and that are made for us, about the worst things we do to each other and the most astonishing.
Crane has structured her narrative in some really interesting ways. It’s written in posthumous direct address ... 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.
It is a sad, dark book that is brimming with hope, love, and spirit. Through Kris’ journey to mother, grow, and heal, Crane crafts a soft yet fierce narrative of queer resistance and abolitionist feeling.
Crane brings their impressive imagination to the speculative details, which convey a great deal of thoughtfulness about how the second shadows affect people differently depending on their intersecting identities. They also treat their diverse cast with complexity and compassion ... The author’s profound maturity shines as they interrogate the creation of family, criminalization, and queer resistance.
Candidly explores the anguish of grief while remaining deeply insightful and often bitingly funny ... 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.