Thursday, February 17, 2011

Book Review: Lucky Breaks by Susan Patron (2009)

This second book in what I have now learned will be a trilogy is, in my opinion, better than the first one that won the Newbery. While The Higher Power of Lucky was quite well-written, it involved a lot of backstory that took time to build, and the entire plot was basically an internal struggle within Lucky's own mind. This book, Lucky Breaks, with its addition of newcomer Paloma, and her family, takes a more traditional path, and while the writing style doesn't deviate much from the first book, there is a much more clearly defined story arc, and I think the moment of crisis that serves as the book's climax is ten times more satisfying than anything that happened in the first book.

The threads running through this story include Lucky's desperate desire for a female best friend, Lincoln's continued obsession with knot-tying, and his entry in a contest that could take him to England to study, Brigitte's constant efforts to become more Americanized and more Californicated, and a mysterious box delivered to Short Sammy's water tower that all of Hard Pan believes contains his coffin.

The desert setting once again served as an interesting and vibrant backdrop to the story, and scenes such as the appearance of a urinating burro outside Brigitte's trailer, and Brigitte's first experience with s'mores were not just great plot points, but also just really funny moments.

I'd also like to say the book was quite quotable, and some of the lines I marked are below:

From page 42:
Sometimes certain things are so important, so vital and urgent, that they get a momentum of their own, like a force of nature. Lucky felt sure that the essentialness of Paloma coming back to Hard Pan was exactly that kind of force of nature, and one way or another, it would happen.

From page 59:
"Of course," Brigitte said. "Adults have big, big wishes that we do not expect to come true. That is why we need so many more candles on our cakes."

From page 91:
Lucky did not understand why adults were always trying to keep important information from kids. It was very frustrating, because it made kids have to work twice as hard to find things out. 

From page 128:
After a time, Lucky discovered that being bored is actually almost worse than being sad. When you are sad, your heart pumps the tragedy all through your body and fills your mind with the story of your suffering, and you tell that story to yourself over and over. But when you are bored, your mind has no stories and is a gray lump, a lump with soggy crevices of longing for something to happen.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I anxiously await the third installment, Lucky for Good, to be published this summer. I was sad to learn, however, that the illustrations for the third book are not done by Matt Phelan, who did a beautiful job on the first two titles. I have a hard time believing his replacement will measure up.

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