Heather's Reviews > Beginner's Luck

Beginner's Luck by Laura Pedersen
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's review
Apr 28, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: from-publisher-marketing
Read in March, 2010

Hallie is a sixteen-year-old who marches to the beat of her own drum, and finds herself trapped in a Procrustean world of rules and regulations, school bells and deadlines, and no one to appreciate her for who she is. Then she meets the tenants of Nuthatch Lane, and she has never felt so normal!

There is the senior Unitarian Ms. Olivia, a vegetarian pornography-writing smuggler and poet who is fighting for freedom of speech and separation of church and state. She's a wild bohemian who is always leading the bandwagon for some cause.

I love when Ms. Olivia is sharing a conversation she had with the school principal about his Procrustean approach to school in regards to Hallie:

"...They don't want a freethinking person in their establishment. No, absolutely not. They want blocks of soft, malleable clay that they can carve and shape into their own images. People have a child and then set about tugging the strings to make that child dance to their own tune-- become what they've envisioned a child of theirs should be. I said to him, 'Mr. Collier, with all due respect, one of your trained seals has risen up from the man-made pool and spat in the eye of the zookeeper.' " (page 124)

By this point in the book, I think I have fallen in love with Ms. Olivia.

Mr. Bernard, the gay son of Ms. Olivia, is always at odds with his mother, but in a good-natured sort of way. You can feel the great love between mother and son. A gourmand and antiques collector, he lives with his mother and his lover Gil, who is the most "normal" of the bunch!

I love the quirky characters that drive this book. Free-thinking and supportive, the Stocktons offer a strong foundation for Hallie and give her a leg-up on life. And I love having the opportunity to stand beside Hallie as she navigates her way through new experiences and challenges. This is truly a "coming of age" story, and Hallie is a very likable girl.

This book is full of hot topic issues, and at times I felt that the author may be pushing her own agenda. However I tried to look beyond this. For the most part, I enjoyed Ms. Olivia's passionate spirit, and only a few times did I feel somewhat "manipulated" by a storyline that seemed to be a proponent for certain social-political ideas.

One thing that really bugged me was the inclusion of the chimp Rocky. I'm not sure what the point was of having him around. I just found him to be a distraction. I grew to dread any passages containing Rocky, as they were just ridiculous. So I tried to just work my way around Rocky, viewing him as something of an obstacle to the storyline for me, and continued on my merry way once I'd made it past him.

There is some minor vulgarity-- the kind of expletives you would expect even the best of kids to utter on occasion. Typical teen "situations", but nothing too untoward. I would be more cautious of the political and religious subject matter, and whether or not you are comfortable with your child reading ideas that may not jive with your own. You just have to know your own child, and whether they have a mind of their own or not.

This was an enjoyable story with great characters full of interest. There are some sensitive subjects addressed, some minor vulgarity, and that stupid chimp to contend with, but a good story all around. I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoys a light coming-of-age YA story with a whimsical twist.

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Reading Progress

03/24/2010 page 306

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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Dianne I agree with you re inclusion of the chimp being a distraction. Good point!

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