A girl with drug-induced ESP and an eerie connection to Patty Reed (a young member of the Donner Party who credited her survival to her relationship with a hidden wooden doll), searches for her disappeared foster sister along “The Highway That Eats People,” stalked by a conflation of Twin Peaks’ “Bob” and the Green River Killer, known as Dactyl.
Trying to capture the experience of a character on the brink of insanity is daring and rarely successful. When it works—think William Burroughs at his best—readers must be able to encounter the narrator’s skewed psychology without becoming lost amid the hallucinatory logic. The Orange Eats Creeps performs this tricky balancing act, which partly explains how Krilanovich can inhabit a ludicrous plot (hobo vampires?) without tumbling into horror kitsch. She nails the shaky worldview of a supernatural teen narco-insomniac who drifts in and out of dreams as fluidly as she drifts in and out of sexual encounters ... This novel immerses the reader in the warped perspective of its protagonist without ever quite sacrificing sense ... Vampirism is a well-worn horror trope, but Krilanovich finds unique things to say with it.
Punk rock is played and blood is consumed, but the horrors here are far more internal in nature, and the sometimes pastoral landscapes this novel’s narrator wanders provide no respite ... Krilanovich is borrowing elements here from pulp horror, but it’s key that an unseen killer is far more sinister than either the gang of vampires or an ominous street that resurfaces throughout the book ... That actions are horrific isn’t the only thing at work here — there’s also the way in which actions begin to blur and lose cohesion, which is in its own way even more horrific. And in the end, the most resonant pit-of-your-stomach dread doesn’t come from a roadside killer or fangs poised above a neck. Instead, it’s a much simpler scene, something rooted in mundane indifference that brings this novel to its unexpectedly domestic and achingly painful conclusion.
A form of hell is precisely what Grace Krilanovich writes to, and animates ... Krilanovich’s misfits join a vast list of literary protagonists and authors, like de Quincey, Balzac, Baudelaire, and Bourroughs, who sustain themselves on a cornucopia of drugs: uppers, white pills, Quaaludes, cough syrup, meth, alcohol, you name it ... Krilanovich’s narrator has encountered and embraced her own personal form of hell, which in its horror also contains a great beauty.