Lucky Linderman’s father patently refuses to acknowledge the problems in his life. It doesn’t matter whether the problem is growing up fatherless (his father was a POW/MIA soldier in Vietnam), his failing marriage, or his son’s troubles with a bully named Nader McMillan. He pretty much walks away and tunes out from life when things start to get uncomfortable — often retreating to his job at what Lucky refers to as “Le Fancy-Schmancy Cafe.” Lucky’s mom is just as bad. She, too, refuses to acknowledge that her marriage is falling apart and ignores the bullying situation. (She just doesn’t have as hefty an excuse as her husband.) Even after Nader takes things too far and hurts Lucky pretty badly, his parents still choose to avoid confrontation and merely plan for Lucky and his mom to go away for the summer. Staying with relatives in Arizona doesn’t do anything for fixing the marriage or bullying problems, but Lucky does end up making some friends while he’s there. He also starts working out, under the tutelage of his uncle, and gains a little confidence in the process. The only question is whether that will do him any good when he returns home.
Though most of this story is fairly standard for YA contemporary realistic fiction, there’s one thing that pushes this book pretty far into the realm of magical realism. Lucky visits his [POW/MIA] grandfather in his dreams. For real. As in, he comes out of his dreams with physical tokens of where he has been. (It actually reminds me a bit of The Dream Thieves, which is the second book of The Raven Cycle.) Though I am sure none of the teens who read this book are actually traveling to visit long-lost relatives in their dreams, I am sure a great many of them can relate to the generalized family issues and bullying Lucky experiences. I only hope that Lucky’s realizations and growth will inspire readers to be more proactive in response to their own problems.