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YA, Contemporary, 279 pages, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
- Series: stand-alone
- Pub date: October 3rd 2011
- Disclosure: Received a copy in my giant ALAN box of books. Thanks!
Lucky Linderman didn't ask for his life. He didn't ask his grandfather not to come home from the Vietnam War. He didn't ask for a father who never got over it. He didn't ask for a mother who keeps pretending their dysfunctional family is fine. And he didn't ask to be the target of Nader McMillan's relentless bullying, which has finally gone too far. But Lucky has a secret--one that helps him wade through the daily mundane torture of his life. In his dreams, Lucky escapes to the war-ridden jungles of Laos--the prison his grandfather couldn't escape--where Lucky can be a real man, an adventurer, and a hero. It's dangerous and wild, and it's a place where his life just might be worth living. But how long can Lucky keep hiding in his dreams before reality forces its way inside? Michael L. Printz Honor recipient A.S. King's smart, funny and boldly original writing shines in this powerful novel about learning to cope with the shrapnel life throws at you and taking a stand against it.
It started back in 2009 with The Dust of 100 Dogs. It was cemented in 2010 with Please Ignore Vera Dietz. And after 2011's Everybody Sees the Ants, I know my love for A.S. King's bold, heartwrenching, quirky, and all-around terrific writing will last for eternity.
When I saw the book peeking out of my ALAN box, I was simultaneously thrilled and terrified. What if it didn't live up? What if I hated it? What if I didn't find Lucky as relatable a hero as Saffron or Vera? What if? And, as usual when I work myself up into a tizzy over these things, I shouldn't have worried. While it wasn't a story I could personally relate to as much as Vera's, Lucky Linderman creeped into my heart and broke it from the inside out over and over again.
The mark of a good YA writer is one who manages to keep a distinct voice while telling very different stories, and it's a strength King has in spades. From the magical ants to Lucky's (also magical) lost grandpa to all the ins and outs and ups and downs of family to the kickass feminist sensibility, there was never any doubt I was reading an A.S. King novel, but I was also awed by how out of left field the story seemed to be, too.
First, the narrator's a boy, and a believable one; a surprise from an author who brought us such memorable girl-voices in Saffron and Vera Dietz. Second, King takes us out of trailer parks and poor small towns to houses with swimming pools, yet never loses her brutal honesty. From the very first scene where Lucky explains an experiment gone wrong in suicide questionnaires, to a climactic performance of the Vagina Monologues, the book is pure grit, dark humor, and heartbreak the whole way through.
I would also be remiss if I didn't mention Ginny and her pals, who feel more like caricatures than the rest of the cast of characters--teen model hates her parents, sexual experimentation and empowerment for all--but also manage to tell a blunter, different sort of truth than King's usual head-on razor-sharp wit. When Ginny sits Lucky down and tells him about first times--"It's a crazy mix of fear and excitement and white noise and--uh--lust, I guess. It's not romantic"--it reads just like growing up feels. And that's the highest compliment a YA novel can get from me.
All in all, this book is awesome in all senses of the word: an utter tour-de-force, and I can't wait for more.
...and the Short:
Easily one of the best books of last year, and it joins King's other work as some of the best YA written, ever. Brutally honest and beautiful, I can't recommend it more highly.
The Final Word: Loved it!