The Thing About Luck, by Cynthia Kadohata (2013)

Genre: Contemporary
Interest Level: 10-14
The Thing About LuckTwelve-year-old Summer and her brother Jaz are joining their grandparents on wheat harvest, which means leaving school before the summer break. It’s been a tough few months for the family. A mosquito bite gave Summer malaria and nearly killed her; she now obsessively covers her skin with DEET and creates almost perfect drawings of both male and female of the species. Jaz can’t make any friends, her grandmother’s back pain is worsening, and now her parents are called to Japan to care for three dying relatives, leaving the grandparents to come out of retirement and join the custom harvest team. A mortgage (whatever that is) weighs heavily on the family, and Summer is aware of how important it is for her to help her grandmother prepare meals for the team as they travel from Kansas to farms in Texas and beyond. A spark of interest from the older boy on the team gives Summer hope things will improve, for her love life at least. But that’s the thing about luck, Summer knows. It can get worse. This character-driven novel is a gentle exploration of Summer’s relationships with her family. It’s the kind of book that adults choose for children’s literature awards (National Book Award for 2013), but appeals only to certain young readers. I particularly enjoyed Summer’s drawings, and her school report-like explanations of how combines work, but I can see a lot of kids tossing this aside after just a few pages. I almost did myself. Kadohata’s writing grows on you, and I found myself enjoying her grandmother’s crankiness most of all (Obaachan is a Japanese-American version of Maggie Smith’s character on Downton Abbey). A good choice for girls who liked Plain Kate, and books by Sarah Ellis and Kit Pearson, though not, in my opinion, up to their standards.
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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