February 22nd, 2016 by Nancy
Fourth grade can be tough. For Benny Barrows, the main character of Just My Luck by Cammie McGovern, fourth grade seems like the most unlucky year ever. Benny doesn’t have an alien invasion or time-traveling pirate ninjas or ancient Greek prophecies to worry about. He has real life.
Things that weigh on Benny’s mind:
- His father, who is recovering from a brain aneurism.
- That despite everyone telling Benny the aneurism wasn’t his fault, that it was actually his fault.
- Math, spelling, and sports — especially riding a bike.
- Making new friends, and holding onto his one friend.
- His teacher, Mr. Norris, looks tired every day, and doesn’t notice Benny.
- The medical bills that his family faces.
- And lots, lots, more…
One person Benny doesn’t worry about — but does help look after — is his older brother George, who is autistic. The book’s depiction of George’s medium-level autism and how others react to it is well-written. Even though many parts of Just My Luck are sad, I really enjoyed reading it because Benny is such a wonderfully kind, thoughtful character. Even when he’s frustrated or sad, he keeps going and never takes out his unhappiness on others.
One of my favorite parts of the book is finding out how Benny feels about his classmates. Even though classmates might think he’s odd because he’s quiet and doesn’t enjoy sports like other boys in his class, he’s never unkind to anyone. Benny, like many real kids, just takes a little longer to come out of his shell and discover what kind of friendships are important to him.
Just My Luck is not a fake-happy-ending book. Spoiler alert: There isn’t a magical cure that fixes Benny’s father. The Barrows family doesn’t win the lottery. Benny doesn’t become the most popular kid in school. But I still found the book to be a page-turner because I was rooting for Benny, and I think you will, too!
Recommended for fans of:
- Wonder by R.J. Palacio
- The Nest by Kenneth Oppel
- Firegirl by Tony Abbott
- The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
- Rules by Cynthia Lord
- So B. It by Sarah Weeks
Have you ever read a book that was “sad” but also made you smile? Leave a comment below!