Everyone knows that you are born with a hundred crystals, and as you age, become injured or get sick, your crystal count depletes. Well, everyone in the small town believes this, but in the city things are… different. There is a general distrust between the “backwards” town and the modern city, but each day the city grows nearer. The townspeople may even be making a move against the city. A young girl named Remy lives in the town next to its crystal mine. Remy’s family, like her small town, is in turmoil. Her father is putting up a wall between himself and his emotions. Her brother is locked away in the city prison. And her mother’s crystal count is quickly being declining because of her sickness. Remy sets out to do something no one else has done before. She is determined to increase her mother’s crystal count and therefore her life expectancy with or without the help from the rest of her family.
If you’ve seen my Goodreads rating for this book, you know I wasn’t a big fan. However, I think it had a lot of potential. In the end, my opinion is that it was equal parts me not picking the right book and the book not quite coming together effectively for what I expected. I’ve talked about the publisher Two Dollar Radio on here before. They are from Columbus, Ohio, and they publish some very unique reads that usually involve current problems, social issues, and environmental concerns. I admire the work that they do and the books they put out, but sometimes the books are a little too experimental for my tastes, which is the case with Crystal Eaters.
Based on the blurb and everything I had heard about the book, I expected the following:
- commentary on the family unit or just a family-oriented story
- small town vs. big city or nature vs. civilization
- dealing with and commentary on accepting grief, life, and death
- some interesting world building
- general societal commentary
Ultimately, many of these topics are covered, but I didn’t feel that they brought many new ideas to the table.
The story was centered on Remy’s family, and there is a fair bit of reading between the lines when the characters speak, write, or have scenes together. I really liked how there was more going on in the characters’ archs than what was explicitly written on the page, but you also had to look closely to see it. The family members are distant with one another for a number of different reasons, and it was interesting to see how their relationships affected affected each other relationship in the family unit. Grief and the acceptance of death are dealt with in the novel too, but I felt that the novel ended to abruptly to really consider what grief and acceptance of death mean in the novel.
However, the basics of the characters’ personalities did not feel unique. The father is emotionally closed off, the mother suffers in silence, the brother is caught up in something illegal, and the daughter is trying to fix everything even though she is young. We’ve seen these kinds of characters before, but Crystal Eaters did not do much beyond these tropes. I would have liked to have seen the character development go a bit further in order for them to feel more life-life and unique. After reading the novel, I could barely remember even Remy’s name.
The small town vs. big city aspect was there, but again (and this goes with my next point) it could have gone a bit further. I actually focused on this topic a lot in college, so I did not see the small town vs. big city or nature vs. civilization really take a different or interesting turn in Crystal Eaters from previous books I’ve read. There is of course some societal commentary, but I think it would have made many things work better if the world of the novel had been developed a bit more thoroughly. The novel was very experimental with stream-of-consciousness and drug-induced lyrical descriptions, but I did not find as much substance to these descriptions as I would have liked. Developing the word more would have allowed the characters and themes to have more to work with to help them expand more as well.
I gave Crystal Eaters two out of five stars. It bored me where it could have inspired me, but there’s a good possibly that it just wasn’t the right book for me, and that’s OK to admit because it might be the perfect book for you. I still highly recommend anything from Two Dollar Radio and their authors. They don’t sponsor me, but hey, I wish they would!