Review Detail

Kids Fiction 801
Powerful themes of kindness and endurance
Overall rating 
 
3.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
3.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
Benny Barrows is having a rough time. His best friend moved, and he’s having trouble finding a new one. His school is doing a project on small acts of kindness, and he hasn’t been recognized. His father had an accident while Benny was riding his bike, and his whole family is struggling to adjust to his father’s changes. As Benny tries to focus on doing good, he will have to find strength to manage the bad things that keep happening.

The average person will have several periods in their life when things keep going wrong, and it seems like one bad thing keeps happening after another. Benny first experiences this in the 4th grade. The way Benny’s mind works is fascinating and well written. Benny is keenly aware of what others have to offer (both positively and negatively), but he can’t see his own strengths. He believes he is partly responsible for his father’s accident since he was there when it happened. However, even with all the bad things that happen, Benny develops a powerful resilience of character that teaches all readers that hope is never lost and good days are possible even in the saddest of times.

The family dynamic is wonderful. Benny has two brothers, Martin, who is older and starting to experience teen life, and George, who is autistic and loves to laugh. When their father has the accident that damages his brain, the whole family is shaken up. Through Benny’s eyes, readers see how they each have their own problems alongside this: Martin is dealing with girl trouble, the mother is facing the medical bills, and George develops a habit of saying what they all are thinking but might not say out loud. The way the family learns to come together during this bleak period is truly touching.

While I love the messages in the story, there are times when certain messages come on a little too strongly and feel more like the author speaking than Benny. However, these times aren’t too frequent. The pacing is also a little slow in areas, but this adds for plenty of room for character growth.

With powerful themes of kindness and endurance, JUST MY LUCK makes a solid addition to any middle grade shelf.
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