Lucky is 15 and lives with her grandparents. Her best friend, Ryan, is literally the boy next door. When her grandfather dies, Lucky does her best to take over the role of caring for her grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s. An accident brings the attention of the authorities to their home situation, resulting in Lucky being placed in foster care.
A series of foster placements take her away from the familiarity of what used to be her life. Some placements are weird, some are okay and some are downright creepy. None of them are home. All the while, Lucky holds out hope that soon she and her grandmother will be able to return to their own home.
Although the publisher’s website states the target audience for this book is 13 to 18 years, the writing style felt more suitable for younger readers, with the exception of some swearing. This made me think this was a Hi-Lo book, although I cannot find any information to support this assumption. This was a short book with over sixty very short chapters, and a quick read. I didn’t have any problems with the overall story but I wanted it to be fleshed out more.
While I was told what was happening I never got beyond the idea that I was reading a series of, ‘this happened, then that happened, this person said this, then that happened’. There weren’t many expressed emotions, other than some tears (after which I was consistently told that Lucky wasn’t a crier) and the fact that almost every time Lucky encountered confrontation she resorted to physical violence, even though there was no indication she had ever behaved that way before.
I stand by my previous reviews where I’ve said we need more books about foster care. While I loved that this book talked about foster care and did explore a few of the different types of homes foster kids are placed in, I felt there were some missed opportunities as well.
I’ve read a few books recently that have included so many young adult social issues that it began to feel like I was reading social issue soup and this book felt like that too. Although plenty of boxes have been checked (most are included in my content warnings) it felt like their existence was only acknowledged in Lucky’s story rather than adequately dealt with.
Lucky is Indigenous; her grandparents are Cree. While bannock is mentioned (which I definitely need to try for myself) and Lucky experiences racism based on her heritage, this was pretty much the extent of its inclusion in this book. The author also has Cree heritage and I would have loved to have learned more about this.
There were gaps in the story that I filled in myself. For example, Lucky’s best friend comes out to his conservative religious parents, his father beats him up because of it, Lucky’s grandmother confronts his parents and comes back to the house with some of his belongings, saying he’ll be staying with them for a few days. Then there’s no follow up, except a couple of years later he’s mentioning his aunt and uncle, yet we’re never told that he moved in with them. I made up scenarios of when and how that went down myself.
The descriptions were quite repetitive. While there were a few more that I’m not mentioning here, food smelt “heavenly” four times and something was “amazing” nineteen times. If this is a Hi-Lo book the repetition makes sense. If it’s not, I have a problem with it. Because I don’t know for sure, I’m currently sitting on the fence about it.
Content warnings include abandonment, bullying, drug addiction, foster care, gambling addiction, homophobia, neglect, physical abuse, racism, attempted sexual assault and slut shaming (I hate that phrase but couldn’t think of a better, less offensive one).
Thank you so much to NetGalley and Second Story Press for the opportunity to read this book.
Once Upon a Blurb
Fifteen-year-old Lucky loves her grandparents. True, her grandmother forgets things, like turning the stove off, or Lucky’s name, but her grandfather takes such good care of them that Lucky doesn’t realise how bad things are … until she loses her grandfather and is left caring for her grandmother on her own. When her grandma sets the kitchen on fire, Lucky can’t hide what’s happening any longer, and she is sent into foster care. She quickly learns that some families are okay, and some aren’t. And some really, really aren’t. None of them feel like home. And they’re certainly not family.