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Lucky Few

Review

Lucky Few

Kathryn Ormsbee’s novel LUCKY FEW chronicles the trials and tribulations of Stevie Hart’s junior year in homeschool. Best friends Stevie Hart and Sanger Sadler-Hamasaki approach the Austin, Texas, homeschool scene with a mix of reservation and casual acceptance. They aren’t those “jean jumper and long braid wearing homeschoolers,” as Stevie repeatedly assures the reader. Stevie provides us with a first-person look into the life she leads as a diabetic activist whose best friend Sanger is an effortlessly cool coding genius. They have their whole world worked out when a new neighbor, Max Garza, with a tragic past moves in next door to Stevie and inspires a whole world of firsts for the two totally normal teens.

“[LUCKY FEW] stands in contrast to the typical teen novel in that it takes on a more subtle approach to the process of growing up….a quick read and a heartfelt one.”

This book starts with a bang when Max reveals that he has committed to faking his death 23 times. Max has a secret and it’s only through these deadly reenactments that he feels he can overcome it. Stevie is both intrigued and scared by this strongly handsome prep school dropout and as she pushes for answers about his hidden past they begin to form a powerful friendship. It is the brave Sanger who quickly assumes the role of director in the elaborate reenactment and documentation of the 23 deaths and it is Sanger who loops in a reluctant Stevie. With modern character arcs, Ormsbee creates a clear trajectory for these three unlikely friends. Max has a plan but it is Sanger’s powerful determination to complete the list that launches these friends on a journey of friendship, puberty and mortality. As Stevie battles with the uncomfortable exploration of a first crush, Sanger inspires mild rebellion along the way. These three teens think that they can take on anything, but will they survive junior year --- and a death wish?

While the plot approaches complex and striking subjects, including mortality, first love and other-ism, the characters don't always live up to the potential of the themes. Ormsbee’s take on being a teenage outsider is casual and, at times, predicable. Ormsbee approaches being “other" with such a cool confidence that she rarely dissects the obvious underlying themes except to repeat that our protagonist Stevie is normal. Perhaps it is her nonchalant perspective, but the character at times falls flat and is more reminiscent of a well-adjusted adult rather than a homeschooled teenage girl. Stevie seems to be effortlessly cool --- she knows how to behave in almost every situation, despite lacking any connection to the outside world. While our protagonist can come across as overly adult, her insecurity in love is easily relatable and stands apart from the fast-paced and risky portrayal typical of first love novels.
 
Mortality is a central theme to this book and one that Ormsbee reflects upon well. Ormsbee describes several characters’ perspectives on death quite realistically. In LUCKY FEW, death is something fluid, it changes people but those changes are complex and ever evolving. Ormsbee reflects upon the ways in which one’s relationship to death changes based on how it has interacted with each individual character, and it is this perspective that adds the majority of the characters’ depth in this novel. The characters all have diverse and ever developing understandings of life and how best to embrace it, and Ormsbee taps into the curiosity and fear we have all experienced. Ormsbee addresses several topics in this teen novel, creating both a light read and a sadly beautiful book.

Ormsbee has written something that stands out in its casual tone and approach to topics both complex and quotidian. This book stands in contrast to the typical teen novel in that it takes on a more subtle approach to the process of growing up. It is both a quick read and a heartfelt one. Readers will enjoy the seamless character development and sweet portrayal of teens learning how to be adults.

Reviewed by Eden Temple on June 20, 2016

Lucky Few
by Kathryn Ormsbee

  • Publication Date: June 6, 2017
  • Genres: Family Life, Humor, Social Issues
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 148145529X
  • ISBN-13: 9781481455299