Hi y’all. Hope you’re having a great week. I can’t believe it’s Thursday already! Where has the time gone?
Today I am reviewing The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron which won the Newbery Medal in 2007. This novel is part of my Newbery Challenge. This book had a lot of potential. It tried to explore some compelling themes. But it fell short for me.
- This book was just okay for me. It wasn’t really good or really bad. It was just fine. It didn’t really resonant with me. In fact, I’m not sure I would say I ever really “got into it.” I just kept reading a chapter or two a day until I finished.
- I think the summary on the book cover is a bit misleading. It makes the story sound more adventurous and intense than it actually is. That was disappointing.
- The best part of this novel is the writing style. There are a few really lovely phrases and moments that I enjoyed and connected with. And the writing is very accessible for a younger audience.
- This is one of those Newbery winners that I don’t understand. More on that later.
The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron tells the story of Lucky who decides to run away from home. Goodreads summarizes, “Lucky, age ten, can’t wait another day. The meanness gland in her heart and the crevices full of questions in her brain make running away from Hard Pan, California (population 43), the rock-bottom only choice she has. It’s all Brigitte’s fault — for wanting to go back to France. Guardians are supposed to stay put and look after girls in their care! Instead Lucky is sure that she’ll be abandoned to some orphanage in Los Angeles where her beloved dog, HMS Beagle, won’t be allowed. . . . Just as bad, she’ll have to give up eavesdropping on twelve-step anonymous programs where the interesting talk is all about Higher Powers. Lucky needs her own — and quick. But she hadn’t planned on a dust storm. Or needing to lug the world’s heaviest survival-kit backpack into the desert.“
Lucky was an okay main character, but she didn’t stand out for me. She seemed naive and underdeveloped as a character. I would have liked more details about her life–her interested, the challenges she’s overcome, even more about her relationships with her friends and guardian. Everything could have been longer (the book is just under 150 pages so there was space to develop more). It’s hard to say much about her because I feel like there’s not much to work with.
I liked the idea of Lucky running away. Haven’t all kids planned a similar journey at some point? That had a lot of potential to be an engaging story. The build up is great to her big moment. She does all the classic things–picks a certain time, packs her running away bag (with not enough food but plenty of other things. Haha), and she even picks a very particular running away outfit. Then of course, it doesn’t go quite to plan. But it all got a bit anticlimactic in the end. There wasn’t a big, surprising twist that made me love the story. It just ended. Also, the whole thing could have been avoided if she and Brigitte just talked to each other a little more.
I found myself wishing at various points that this novel was longer. Things weren’t as developed or explained as they could be. So it felt disjointed and disconnected. I didn’t get the subplot with her mother and the urn. That just didn’t work for me. I wanted more details about why Lucky even lived in Hard Pan, more details about the AA meetings and Lucky’s search for a higher power. The theme of seeking a higher power was intriguing, but not explained enough. I wanted more details on that. It was the most interesting part of the book! I don’t think these extensions would make the book too long. It could be twice as long (about 300 pages) and not be overwhelming.
For me, this book is not a clear Newbery winner; it doesn’t live up to my expectations for Newbery Medal books. I feel like Newbery winners should do something new or share a unique take on life. They should be exciting, fresh, engaging. This felt bland and boring for me. It didn’t offer a life changing story or a truly compelling theme or memorable characters. It wasn’t emotional. Perhaps that’s the main element that is missing for me. The emotion of this book is missing. The storytelling lacks a deeper emotional drive that connects readers to the characters. And that hindered my entire opinion of the book.
Overall, I was disappointed by The Higher Power of Lucky. I think it could have been more engaging and more developed throughout. But the writing is solid and the characters are quirky. And I like the idea of finding your higher power. With more emotional connection, I think I could have loved this book. But as it is, I can just say it was fine.
What are some of your favorite Newbery books?