As an orphan girl, Crystal was one of many — and utterly alone. But she still dreamed of a shining life of love and happiness, and freedom from the dark legacy of her past

The story of Crystal (another stripper name!) is pretty common among children fostered by the state.

Mother – diagnosed as a manic-depressive when she was only in her mid-teens. She was institutionalized at seventeen after repeated efforts to commit suicide, once cutting her wrists and twice trying to overdose with sleeping pills. I read on and learned that while my mother was in a mental facility, she was impregnated by an attendant.

Apparently, they never knew which attendant, so I realized that some degenerate out there was my father, unless I wanted to believe that my mother and this attendant had the most romantic and wonderful love affair between her drug therapies, cold baths, and electric shock treatments. Anyway, when they realized my mother was pregnant, someone made the official decision not to abort me.

After I was born, obviously neither my paternal nor my maternal grandparents wanted anything to do with me, and Mr. Degenerate Attendant wasn’t going to come out and claim me, so I was immediately made a ward of the state.

“Crystal” is about a smart science-loving teen girl who has grown up in an orphanage. She is adopted by Thelma and Karl Morris, an odd couple who are unable to have their own biological children.

Prospective adoption parents don’t like feeling inferior to the child they might adopt. I’ve seen it firsthand.

Crystal likes them, but she doesn’t really understand them- Karl is economical to the point of obsession, and Thelma is more interested in the fictional characters in her books and soap operas than she is in real life. She should have known that something was off with their weird optimism from the first day they met but she wanted a mother and here was a couple that was not threatening or odd.

We don’t believe in sadness–if you don’t think about the bad things in life, you’ll find they all just go away. You’ll see.”

Crystal is slowly settling in and through her voice you can hear the words that many adopted children have uttered shortly after being moved into a new placement.

One of the biggest fears any of us orphans has is that when we do become part of a family, we won’t be able to adjust to their style of life. We won’t know how to behave at their dinner table, how to behave in front of the other relatives, how to keep our rooms and spend our time. In short, we won’t know how to please our new parents. For us it would always be like an audition. We’d feel their eyes following us everywhere we went, hear their whispers, wonder what they really thought.

Were they happy they had taken us into their lives, or were they sorry and looking for a graceful way to give us back?

Crystal meets the neighbouring kids shortly after moving in and realises her new mom’s obsession with TV soap operas was more than just a thing she did occasionally. She starts feeling depressed when a character died and treats real events like drama in the shows.

I suppose it was all right to watch them, I thought, as long as we remembered that life wasn’t really like a soap opera. Our lives weren’t filled with dramatic events, and people rarely felt as passionate about anything as they constantly did on that small screen.

Things get weirder when Crystal accidentally spies on her new parents re-enacting scenes from the soap-opera with a full dramatic flair before they go make love in their bedroom. I started chuckling at this. Imagine you and your special other sobbing out lines from a drama!

“Oh, Johnny Lee,” she said. “Touch me everywhere this time. Do what you promised you would do. Make my body sing!’ “I will.”

She then decides to tackle life in school and on her first day she was really nervous.

New kids were interesting and yet threatening. I could almost hear their suspicion when they looked at me. The girl who was expected to win the lead in the school play wondered if I would try out and take her part away. The students who were at the top of their classes, racing toward the awards and honors, wondered if I would be real competition. Girls who were leaders of their little cliques feared I might be more sophisticated and win away their loyal followers. Girls and even boys who fell outside the circle of social life hoped I might be another one of them, a friend, a buoy to cling to in the sea of turmoil adults called the teenage years, adolescence.

As she settles in, Crystal also has to deal with catty high school girls and the interesting young neighbor, Bernie, who ends up being her first kiss. In the end, disaster strikes, and Crystal’s too-good-to-be-true new family comes to a halt. The couple that adopted her is killed in a car crash and Crystal is taken back into state care and delivered at the door of a new Orphanage.

Another short read, but much different than Andrews’ other novels. No sexually aggressive creeper, not abusive female caregiver, no psychotic breaks. Pretty tame, actually.

2/5

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