Friday, June 5, 2015

Lucky Strike by Bobbie Pyron, 2015

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A rich, southern voice tells the unforgettable story of two vulnerable outsiders, the lightning strike that turns their world upside down and the true meaning of lucky.Nate Harlow has never had a lucky day in his life. He's never won a prize, he's never been picked first, he's never even won a coin toss. His best friend, Genesis Beam (aka Gen), believes in science and logic, and she doesn't think for one second that there's such a thing as luck, good or bad. But only an extremely unlucky person could be struck by lightning on his birthday... and that person is Nate Harlow. By some miracle, though, Nate survives, and the strike seems to have changed his luck. Suddenly, Nate's grandpa is the busiest fisherman in their small, beachside town. And Nate finds himself the center of attention, the most popular kid at school, the one who hits a game-winning home run! This lucky streak can't last forever, though, and as a hurricane draws close to the shores of Paradise Beach, Nate and Gen may need more than just good luck to save their friendship and their town: They need a miracle. (272 pages)

I'm beginning to feel old. Yes, old. And don't laugh at me, okay? Sixteen-year-olds are allowed to feel the effects of growing up just as much as adults - in fact, we go through more changes in a shorter amount of time than you do! So when I read a Middle Grade book, one that is targeted to an age group that I was a part of only four years ago, I get a bit nostalgic. I get nostalgic for the days when I was easily wowed, when plots never felt reused or simplistic or - perish  the thought! - boring. Now that I'm older, and have read so many books, I am much more particular about the books that I read. My eyes aren't the fresh eyes of a book-loving seventh grader; they're the critical eyes of a well-read soon-to-be Senior in high school. Yes, I realize I'm exagerrating. But I'm in a reading slump right now, so this is how it feels. In a few weeks I'll be bright-eyes again, but right now the world is a well-trodden place where there is nothing new to bring to the table.

I'm sad Lucky Strike didn't bring me out of my slump, but I just didn't like the characters enough to enjoy it very much. Nate didn't really win me, and I especially didn't care much for the way he treated Gen. He's such a fair-weather friend that as soon as he gets struck by lightning, he hoofs it over to the popular kids' side. Haha, he's a "fair-weather friend" who leaves after he gets "struck by lightning!" I don't know why, but I think that's hilarious. Puns aside, though, Nate was rather an anomaly. Descriptions of Nate and Gen's past together depicted him as this great friend who stuck by Gen through thick and thin. Then we're supposed to believe that he ditches her in a really cruel way (by standing her up, barely apologizing, and then calling her a weirdo in front of all of their classmates). Then at the end - well, I won't spoil it for you, but I bet you can guess. Nate's supposed to be this nice kid who went a little popularity crazy when his luck changed, but I just don't buy it. I wish I did, though.

As for Gen, I didn't really love her either. I mean, I liked her more than Nate and I felt bad for her when he was mistreating her. But I'm so sick of the "socially disconnected" depiction of smart people that I didn't really like her as much as I could have. How come the smart person always has to be the weirdo? As a smart-ish person myself, I know this isn't always the case - when you're born, God doesn't decide between giving you scholastic or social aptitude. Being able to process large numbers in your head (definitely not a gift God has given me) does not require you to spit them out like a calculator in the middle of conversations. Caring about turtle eggs on the beach does not mean you sit on the beach 24/7 and forgo having fun with people your own age (and species).

The plot idea is a fun one, and has a lot of potential. Byron focuses on the reactions to Nate's new luck: I already discussed Nate's less-than-ideal reaction, but the far more interesting aspect of the story is everyone else's reaction. Any time one person seems to have an advantage in this world, we seem to break into two groups: the beggers and the haters. The beggars are the people who swarm Nate, asking him to do things for them or play on their team or come ride in their fishing boat. They want some of Nate's luck to rub off on them, so they scurry to stay on his good side. Everone else despises Nate for being so successful. When he and his grandfather have a run of fabulous luck, the other men of the village become bitter that Nate's grandfather is getting everything. They become bitter, behaving meanly to both Nate and his grandfather, because they are swept away in the feeling that an injustice is being done them.

Honestly, the more I think about it the less I liked Lucky Strike. There's nothing so wrong with it that I would consciously refuse to recommend it, but there's also nothing so positive about it that I would go out of my way to suggest it to others. I may hand it off to my middle grade-aged brother if he seems interested, but I won't push it onto him. And who knows, he may like it much more than I did.

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