Book Review: The Higher Power of Lucky

Patron, Susan. The Higher Power of Lucky. New York, NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2006.

Lucky, age ten, can’t wait another day. The meanness gland in her heart and the crevices full of questions in her brain make running away from Hard Pan, California (population 43), the rock-bottom only choice she has.

It’s all Brigitte’s fault — for wanting to go back to France. Guardians are supposed to stay put and look after girls in their care! Instead Lucky is sure that she’ll be abandoned to some orphanage in Los Angeles where her beloved dog, HMS Beagle, won’t be allowed. She’ll have to lose her friends Miles, who lives on cookies, and Lincoln, future U.S. president (maybe) and member of the International Guild of Knot Tyers. Just as bad, she’ll have to give up eavesdropping on twelve-step anonymous programs where the interesting talk is all about Higher Powers. Lucky needs her own — and quick.

But she hadn’t planned on a dust storm.

Or needing to lug the world’s heaviest survival-kit backpack into the desert.

The Newbery winner for 2007, this book was (and probably still is) the subject of controversy. It has been challenged or banned by parents because it mentions the word scrotum. But wait a second, let me explain. The main character of this book, Lucky, is 10 years old. She overhears the a story in which a dog’s scrotum is bitten by a snake. She does not know what a scrotum is. She does not know what it looks like as she has never seen one, and in fact she is not sure that she even wants to (except that she does want to, and at the very same time she definitely does NOT want to – it’s like a car wreck you pass on the highway that you don’t want to see but can’t help but look at as you pass). The most important thing is that while the word appears on the very first page of the book, it’s totally NOT THE POINT of the whole novel! So while parents are getting uppity, kids are probably not even fazed by the word. So no, I don’t think it’s a big deal. If anything, it will cause kids to ask to find out what it is. If boys don’t know what it is and they ask or look it up, they probably feel more sympathy for the dog. And girls probably say, “ewww!!!!” and move on. (That’s my totally unscientific opinion on it.)

So then let’s move on to the story itself. When Lucky’s mother died (she was electrocuted when accidentally stepping on a downed power line after a storm), her absent father asked his ex-wife to come to California to be Lucky’s legal guardian. Lucky is so afraid that one of these days, Brigitte is going to decide to up and leave her, returning home to the Paris she misses dearly. The narrator is omniscient third-person which means that although we see the world through Lucky’s eyes, we also get the facts that show that Brigitte is a good and caring person. Throughout the story, even when Lucky runs away, I was rooting for Brigitte and hoping Lucky would come to see that Brigitte isn’t going anywhere. I like that we can see Lucky’s truth, and we can also see the “real” truth at the same time.

Lucky listens in on Anonymous meetings (Alcoholics Anonymous, Gamblers, Smokers…) and likes hearing the stories about people who hit rock bottom, and then end up finding their higher power. Lucky doesn’t know exactly what it means to find a higher power, but she sure wants to find out! I was a little afraid, at first, that this was going to be fanatically religious, but Lucky doesn’t talk about God. She just wants a higher power that will stop Brigitte from leaving her.

The story itself was fair. It won’t be on my Newbery Top Ten list, but it wasn’t the worst either. While I found the conclusion satisfactory, I am not interested in reading the sequels about Lucky. And I probably won’t read this one again, but it was worth reading once.