Goodreads Project, part 11: Debut Novel

Goodreads Project, part 11: Debut Novel

I’m two-thirds of the way through my project to read a semi-finalist in each category of Goodreads’ Best Book of the Year contest. The winners of the contest are listed here. This post reviews a book from the Debut Novel category.

I’d already read and reviewed two books from this category: Weyward (reviewed in Historical Fiction) and The Wishing Game (reviewed in Fiction). For my new book, I chose I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself by Marisa Crane.

The Story

The book is part dystopia, part queer romance, and part account of grief. It opens with Kris in shock over the death of her wife in childbirth and the subsequent need to care for their daughter on her own. She lives in a surveillance society, with cameras watching her even inside her own bathroom. The society punishes people by giving them a second shadow, a visible mark that exposes them to shame and abuse. At first, shadows were given to convicts in lieu of prison. But in the period of the story, they’re given to anyone who rebels in any way.

Kris already has a second shadow, for reasons we eventually learn. Bizarrely, the baby is immediately given one because her mother died giving birth to her.

Narrative Structure

The story is told in a series of short bits, like diary entries, addressed by Kris to her dead wife. She speaks mainly about their daughter, who’s wonderfully rebellious. Over the course of ten years, we see Kris gradually healing. In doing so, she talks about exoskeletons, hard structures on the outside of animals like snails. She herself has a figurative shell that protects her from future grief but also limits her growth.

So, the book is mainly about dealing with grief. The conflict, then, comes from the outside. The surveillance society threatens Kris and her daughter.

It took me a while to get into this book. The structure is unconventional, organized not only in short entries, but also by chronology (structured by time) rather than plot (structured by cause and effect). I’ve blogged about the difference before. In a plot, everything is connected and makes sense. That contrasts to real life, where what I’m doing right now has no connection to what I did this morning. That’s one of the reasons fiction is more satisfying that life.

In this book, I missed the comfort of plot. On the other hand, what we see here is probably more realistic. I did eventually become engrossed in the book. It just took time. I admire the kind of originality it took to write this story.


The next category is Non-fiction. I’m reading Poverty, by America by Matthew Desmond.


Deep as a Tomb

When the daughter of a would-be rebel and the son of the king wind up living in the same household, her secrets are threatened by his need for revenge. Murder, magic, and underground tomb mazes.


Bookshop (alliance of independent bookstores)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial