Book review: If You’re Lucky

Courtesy Algonquin Books for Young Readers
Plan on staying up late if you choose IF YOU’RE LUCKY, by Yvonne Prinz, for a bedtime read. This young adult novel, which goes on-sale in October 2015, is a quick read and a gripping thriller.

It’s the story of 17-year-old Georgia, “George” to her friends, and the aftermath of her brother’s drowning while surfing in Australia. Losing a sibling would be tragedy enough, and her brother’s nickname, Lucky, belies his fate. But George also suffers from mental illness, and her meds leave her feeling isolated and alone. (And isn’t adolescent a time for those kinds of feelings?)


Then handsome, enigmatic Fin shows up, saying he was a close friend of Lucky’s, although George had never heard of him. Fin charms his way into her family’s life, even earning the devotion of their dog, and begins to romance Lucky’s girlfriend.


She starts to question whether he might have murdered Lucky, just to take his place. I won’t give away the specific nature of George’s mental illness, which isn’t revealed until the tension starts to build. The reader is left to ask: Is George right about Fin? Or is she delusional and paranoid?


In many ways, this feels like a Patricia Highsmith novel, The Talented Mr. Ripley. But Prinz has written her story in an easy-to-read style, with brief chapters and short, simple sentences, that most young adults will breeze through. (I wouldn’t have minded if the writing had been a bit more complex or challenging, but that’s just my preference.)


My only real criticism–and this isn’t much–is the use of the name “Lucky,” and how it played into the title and resolution. It felt slightly gimmicky, to me. But I did think that George’s objections to taking her meds–and sometimes, her outright refusal to take them–rang true, from what I know about mental illness. She’s a realistic and believable character, and you find yourself rooting for her.  I received this book as an advance reading copy from the publisher, but that has not influenced the opinions I’ve expressed here.


Image courtesy of Algonquin Books for Young Readers