Just My Luck

Age Range
Release Date
February 23, 2016
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Critically acclaimed author Cammie McGovern's middle grade debut is a powerful and heartwarming story that will appeal to readers who loved R. J. Palacio's Wonder, Ann M. Martin's Rain Reign, and Holly Sloan's Counting by 7s.

Fourth grade is not going at all how Benny Barrows hoped. He hasn't found a new best friend. He's still not a great bike rider—even though his brother George, who's autistic, can do tricks. And worst of all, he worries his dad's recent accident might be all his fault. Benny tries to take his mom's advice and focus on helping others, and to take things one step at a time. But when his dad ends up in the hospital again, Benny doesn't know how he and his family will overcome all the bad luck that life seems to have thrown their way.

Just My Luck is a deeply moving and rewarding novel about a down-on-his-luck boy whose caring heart ultimately helps him find the strength to cope with tragedy and realize how much he truly has to offer his friends and family.

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Powerful themes of kindness and endurance
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Plot/Characters/Writing Style
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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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