Thank you to Catapult for sending me a copy of I Keep My Exoskeletons To Myself in exchange for an honest review.

The Department of Balance has adopted a radically new form of law enforcement. Instead of incarceration, wrongdoers receive a second shadow to shame them and remind them of their crimes publicly. So-called Shadesters are disenfranchised, surveilled and deprived of their civil rights. Kris is one of these Shadesters. She’s a new widow and a new mother to a baby born with a second shadow. Mourning the death of her wife and unprepared to raise a child alone, she barely holds things together. Kris finds her way as her child grows, raising a child with so much love that she doesn’t let their harsh world dampen.

RELATED: Book Review: Hell Bent

I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself is a new dystopian novel by Marisa Crane. It tells the story of Kris, “the kid” and the people in their orbit as the country slowly, insidiously, goes mad. She explores grief, parenthood, belonging and the brutality of society with sparse and painfully beautiful prose.

While this book covers a lot of time, not much happens. This isn’t necessarily bad; just don’t go into it expecting a high-octane sci-fi thriller. I Keep My Exoskeletons To Myself is an introspective but spare book. Crane spends more time on character development than world-building, maybe because it isn’t difficult to imagine a world like this one.

Kris’ internal monologue drives the narrative. Often addressed to her deceased wife, her remarks explore her anguish and grief while including bitingly funny asides. She grapples with shame over her second shadow, fears about her daughter’s future and the relatable anxieties of single parenthood.

RELATED: GGA’s 10 Best Queer Young Adult Books of 2022

Short passages make for a quick read, but this is one that you’ll want to linger on. While there are obvious comparisons to dystopians like The Handmaid’s Tale or The School for Good Mothers, there are shades of Station Eleven here as well. There’s a focus on the ongoing search for community, connection and survival, and the importance of art and hope in an unforgiving world.

I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself is a book that will stay with me for a long time. It’s a unique and nuanced read that you won’t want to put down.

I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself comes out on January 17, 2023, and is available from your local independent bookstore or Bookshop.org.

TW: death, death of a parent, death of a spouse, homophobia, murder, sexual violence, surveillance

GGA’s 7 Best Science Fiction Books of 2022