Lucky Few by Kathryn Ormsbee

lucky fewSynopsis: Stevie, Max, and Sanger: keeping Austin weird.

Stevie Hart is homeschooled, but don’t hold that against her. Sure, she and her best (okay, only) friend, Sanger, will never be prom queens, but that’s just because the Central Austin Homeschool Cooperative doesn’t believe in proms. Or dancing. Still, Stevie and Sanger know how to create their own brand of fun.

Enter Max Garza, the new boy next door. After a near-fatal accident, Max is determined to defy mortality with a checklist: 23 Ways to Fake My Death Without Dying. Dead set on carrying out fabricated demises ranging from impalement to spontaneous combustion, Max charms Stevie and Sanger into helping him with this two-month macabre mission. But as Stevie finds herself falling for Max, it becomes increasingly difficult to draw a line between his make-believe deaths and her real life.

Who knew that near-death experiences could be so funny? Lucky Few takes Death by the ear and gives it a stern talking to about who it can and cannot mess with.

I loved how reverent and irreverent this book was – it was kind of a walking contradiction the entire way through – Stevie is anti-otherist whilst being an otherist herself, which is kind of the whole point of life, isn’t it? We are all being otherists all the time. Sure, we may take up our guantlets and get offended when other people are insensitive about the issues that are close to our heart, but at the same time we are, as humans, very quick to jump on the I don’t understand your views; therefore your views are unimportant band wagon. Quick to judge others for judging us and so on until the end of time. This story does a great job of honing in on why exactly we judge others, and on how subtle those judgments can be.

I enjoyed this book for several reasons:  

“Here you go, a healthy dose of good ol’ Texas Pride.” I love books set in Texas. Yeah, I get it, that’s probably coded into my brainwashed Texan brain, but I can’t help it. There is something magical about the Lonestar State. Kathyrn Ormsbee is a genius for setting her story in the late spring/early summer, which is arguably one of the very best times to be in Texas. I loved all of the subtle references to things like Central Market, bluebonnet season, Barton Springs, and the long-standing Austin-Dallas debate (though, sorry Austin, Dallas is my One True City and always will be).

For a book with this much death talk, no one is actually dying. I completely and utterly one hundred percent thought that someone in their trio was going to be deathly ill. I didn’t have any reason to believe that, but because this is a YA contemporary billed as a book about death, I just assumed someone was going to have a terminal diagnosis or die in a freak accident. I was pleasantly surprised, then, to find that Lucky Few handles the sensitive nature of death and dying (particularly a fear of those things) with plenty of grace, charm, and a humor. The fact that no one has to actually die in order for the message that we’re all “united by death” and we all have to face our own mortality sooner or later to sink in is what really sets this novel apart from others.

It’s LAUGH OUT LOUD funny (and the relationships are believable). Max is just a doll and I love him. I love how unapologetically out there he is, and I thought that his relationship with Stevie was absolutely adorkable on so many levels, and I just wanted more more more of the two of them. They have a great dynamic, and then once you throw in Sanger you’ve got a riot on your hands. The three of them make for some hilarious dialogue. Really, I adored all the relationships in this book. From the subtler ones like Joel and Stevie to the core ones like Max and Stevie or Sanger and Stevie, they’re well-drawn relationships that felt real. Sanger and Stevie especially have that witty banter that can only be perfected to that level when two people have been friends for a very long time. It made me nostalgic just reading their conversations, because I know what that kind of friendship feels like, and I just adored seeing it all laid bare on the pages in front of me.

My only snag with this book was the ending. It just comes a little too quickly and felt a tiny bit unsatisfying. I’m being nitpicky only because I loved how clever and nuanced the rest of the book was, and I just felt like the last five percent wrapped up way too quickly. I wanted more of everything. More about Joel’s crisis to develop before the end, more between Sanger and Stevie, and much more between her and Max.

It was quirky, weird enough to deserve to borrow Austin’s Keep Austin Weird moniker, and very fresh. Which made it a super fun (and fast) read that I would recommend for anyone looking for something to jolt them out of a contemporary slump.

Rating: 4.4/5 stars 

TALK TO ME: Have you read Lucky Few? Are you planning to? What do you look for in a Contemporary YA? 



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