Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Review: Lucky Breaks by Susan Patron

I am currently writing an essay on this book, but I thought a regular review would be necessary for the time being. The first part is actually part of my essay, honestly. The rest of it is the pared down, spoiler-free version. Enjoy!

Lucky Breaks by Susan Patron (Sequel to The Higher Power of Lucky)

All our favorite characters from The Higher Power of Lucky are back, and a little bit older. For Lucky, these past few months have all been leading up to one big thing: her 11th birthday, and 11 is a very big deal. Sometimes though, growing up isn't so easy. Up until now, even through loosing her mother and gaining a guardian, Lucky has had one constant in her life: Lincoln. At eleven-and-a-half Lincoln has gained some popularity in the knot-tying community (of which he is the youngest official member) and has been talking with the best knot tier in the world, Mr. Budworth, who has offered to let Lincoln stay with them for the summer--maybe even the full year. Loosing Lincoln would be to loose a part of herself, so Lucky doesn't take too well to this. Just the next day though, a group of geologists arrive at Brigitte's new open-air café, one of them bringing along his niece, Paloma, a girl the same age as Lucky. Could this be an opportunity for a new best friend--a best girl friend--that Lucky has been wanting? What will this mean for her and Lincoln? And what happens when a simple treasure hunt in the desert goes wrong?

Hands down, the absolute best part of this book for me was the characters. They were so realistic that I feel like I know them. (And yes, I will admit that I could easily fall for an older version of Lincoln) Lucky was especially well-done and her character showed a lot of depth, and more importantly, was perfect for the age she was supposed to be. Sometimes when authors make their main characters children they make them too young or too old, because it's been so long since they were that age themselves that it's hard to remember. And it's very easy to make your character older to make it easier for them to understand things, as well. I admit that at times I felt Lincoln came off as too old to be only eleven (and a half), but at the same time, I do think there are some young boys out there who are like that. On the other hand, Lucky was undoubtedly eleven. Her "meanness gland" that would crop up at certain times, her need to impress and be close to Paloma, her questioning whether or not she or her friends are good enough, and the fact that she lets her emotions get the best of her prove this fact to me. Paloma was another great character and at first I wanted to not like her, but I think this is impossible. She's so sweet and kind-hearted--and smart too--and makes a great addition to the cast. One thing I didn't like, however, was how Miles was suddenly portrayed as a genius. There is nothing in the previous book that would lead us to think this, and very little in the second as well (aside from his reading of Brain Surgery for Beginners), so to this reader, it just seemed tossed in as an after-thought.

The plot flowed very nicely in this book and had many different strands that all tied together nicely at the end. The book opens with Miles retelling a story that Short Sammy told him about a beautiful woman in the mining days of Hard Pan that died tragically while two men fought over her, and how half of her brooch fell down the well. Lucky wants to look for the brooch, but Lincoln discourages her. This seems to be the end of it for awhile, lost in the background while Paloma takes center stage, but the story comes back later on and is a huge part of this book. The same goes for Lincoln's ever-constant net and Short Sammy's mysterious box. These are frequently mentioned, but not explained until the end of the book when Lucky is given the answers. I particularly liked Short Sammy's small side story because it worked into the first book so well.

I love Patron's style in this series and how it reflects Lucky's personality and interests. The way she ties together science and childhood imagination is wonderful and entertaining. I enjoyed seeing Lucky's list of the similarities between herself and Charles Darwin because it brought back her interest in him, and also reminded me of the list she made at the beginning of Higher Power about how to be a good mother.

Overall, I loved this book and couldn't put it down. It is a great read for middle graders, many of whom are struggling with the same problems that Lucky does--or even perhaps the same problem as Lincoln does. Additionally, it is fun and entertaining, with many parts that will make you laugh out loud. The ending, in particular, is quite heart-warming as well. I highly recommend this book (and its predecessor) to anyone ages 8-80. Rack up another win for Ms Patron!

On a side note, Matt Phelan's art is spectacular and gorgeous. This is one of my favorite pieces of cover art overall; beautiful.

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