Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Thing About Luck” as Want to Read:
The Thing About Luck
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Thing About Luck

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  4,613 ratings  ·  676 reviews
Summer knows that kouun means good luck" in Japanese, and this year her family has had none. Just when Summer thinks nothing else can possibly go wrong, an emergency whisks her parents away to Japan, right before harvest season leaving Summer and her little brother, Jaz, in the care of their elderly grandparents, Obaachan and Jiichan.

Obaachan and Jiichan are old fashioned,
Hardcover, 270 pages
Published January 4th 2013 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Thing About Luck, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Quinn Buy it as an Ebook, get it from a library, buy it from a book store, borrow it from a friend, et cetera. If you're asking how to read it here,…moreBuy it as an Ebook, get it from a library, buy it from a book store, borrow it from a friend, et cetera. If you're asking how to read it here, Goodreads is not a website that allows reading books, it just gives you the tools to track which books you've read and discover new books.(less)
Wendi Lau It is sad to think that the main thing a teacher would want a student to get out of this book is identifying the climax. This is a story about an…moreIt is sad to think that the main thing a teacher would want a student to get out of this book is identifying the climax. This is a story about an important but unusual lifestyle, making difficult choices, and developing character. To laser beam a climax out of the book would be to miss the entire beautiful journey.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.68  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,613 ratings  ·  676 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Destinee Sutton
I agree with all the other reviewers who have praised this book for its great characters and wonderful writing and then asked, "But what kid is going to like it?" Or to be frank, "What kid is going to even pick it up?" This is a hard sell. Like Out of the Dust hard sell (but at least it has a lively cover!).

I laughed out loud a few times at Obachan and Summer's interactions and I thought Summer was a real kid's kid. She had a great, relatable voice. Still, the book has virtually no plot and, ev
Oct 24, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: children
"Some kids I knew would read only books that were about something they could relate to. But I was interested in other stuff."

When I got to that passage, I actually had to take a break from reading The Thing About Combines Luck to ponder the critical question: did I just get trolled by Cynthia Kadohata?

The book that prompts that statement from Summer, The Thing About Luck's protagonist, is A Separate Peace. A few paragraphs down, Summer muses further about that novel: "Why would a book in which h
Apr 29, 2013 rated it liked it
Summer's family is having a year of terrible luck. Summer recently recovered from a freak bout of malaria, her brother is a friendless oddball, and her parents just flew to Japan to care for some elderly relatives. That leaves Summer alone with her grandparents for wheat harvesting season. She's usually just along for the ride, but this year, with her grandmother's back pain worsening and her grandfather slowing down, she finds herself facing a lot more responsibility. To make things worse, she' ...more
Crystal Faris
Jan 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
Well, this was boring. I have heard a wide variety of impressions about this book but I am hard pressed to understand the award-worthiness. I know it was the National Book Award winner for young people and it is on many Mock Newbery lists which is what rated it two stars for me. If I had read it before all the great words from other people it would have been only one star. There has to be something of value I am missing for it to be so honored this year.

Probably my largest concern is the signif
Penny Peck
Jul 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-ya
One of the most satisfying tween books I have read this year, this first person novel seems so authentic in voice that it doesn't matter if the plot is relatively "quiet." But the plot is interesting and unusual - 12 year old Summer is spending weeks on the road with her brother and grandparents, working the wheat harvest in Kansas. Her grandparents were born in Japan, but the family is a true American example of an immigrant family - the kids are all American down to speaking perfect English an ...more
Chance Lee
The 2013 National Book Award Winner for Young People's Literature, The Thing About Luck is the story of summer, a young Japanese-American girl, whose family works as special harvesters. Summer, her temperamental brother, and her bickering grandparents travel the Midwest during harvesting season, driving combines, harvesting wheat, dumping it off, and cooking for others in their convoy. Along the way, Summer falls in love (so she thinks -- she's only twelve!), learns responsibility, and spends a ...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)

Doesn't anyone write upbeat books for young people anymore?

Is dysfunctional the new normal?

It must be. I don't know.

Jaz is the sibling with "issues" in this book, which sound like one of those syndromes so beloved of child psychologists these days, what with the rageaholic head-banging and the superconcentration and the Lego obsession. Summer is far from "normal" herself with her obsession with calculating everything, even as she claims to be terrible at math. And who draws detailed pictures of
Sep 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrens, realistic
This did not sound like a book I would like, so I was surprised that I enjoyed it so much - which come to think of it was the same reaction I had to the author's Newbery winner, Kira-Kira. Maybe the book blurbs just don't capture the essence of her writing?

I loved the relationship between Summer and her grandmother, and even more I loved that there was never an over-the-top scene where it is made abundantly clear that the grandmother really does love her, despite harping on her constantly. Summe
Feb 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book, almost finished it in one sitting.
It immerses you in the emotional growth of a 12 year old girl in the US., a girl who undertakes challenges and deals with difficult times with courage and resilience. Not many her age would decide they needed to support their family by driving a combine harvester at night and cooking for 12 people and owning up to her dog killing chickens - for which she paid good money. She also falls in temporary love, handles a boss/ worker relationship, co
Mar 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-grade-ya
"The thing about luck is that it's like a fever. You can take fever meds and lie in bed and drink chicken broth and sleep seventeen hours in a row, but basically your fever will break when it wants to break."

"I knew you would have to work hard at it, because if it was easy to untangle yourself, everybody would be untangled, which simply isn't true."
p. 154
Feb 27, 2017 rated it liked it
What? This book is done? Wait a minute, so what is the thing about luck? Is it that luck is wabi-sabi*? argh. How could I have missed it? I need Jiichan to tell me a story about it so I can understand it better!

I loved Obaachan and Jiichan!! They were my favorite characters!

This was a cute book, but here are some other questions I had:

How dangerous/difficult it is to drive and operate a combine?
What do they feed Thunder?
Why was Thunder even be allowed to go with them?
Why are Obaachan and Jiic
Oct 10, 2013 rated it it was ok
If I had to use one word to describe this book, it would be: boring. This book was boring. It was so boring I couldn't stand it. The premise was unique and had a lot of promise. A 12-year-old girl who has recently recovered from a bout with malaria spends her summer with her brother and grandparents wheat harvesting in the Midwest. Several things provide the basic construct for the story. Summer is so afraid of catching malaria again that she obsessively scrubs her skin with DEET (a worrisome ch ...more
Oct 13, 2017 rated it liked it
I haven't started it but it looks really good little summary in the back and its about a family that has super bad luck and this girl thinks that nothing could possibly go wrong in summer.
Summer’s had some rotten luck.

She’s on a long trip with her brother and grandparents, working for a wheat harvesting company for the season so they can pay the rent while her parents are in Japan with a sick friend. Bad luck.

Her temperamental brother Jaz can’t seem to make a friend anywhere he goes. Bad luck.

Her grandma’s back pain is getting worse, and her grandpa’s getting sick. Bad luck.

And no matter how hard she tries, her grandmother acts like everything that goes wrong is Summer’s fault. T
Crystal Bandel
Aug 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata, published 2013.

Realistic fiction.

Novel with a few illustrations.

Grades 4-8.

Found via Booklist, reviewed by Michael Cart.

The Thing About Luck follows first-generation Japanese American Summer, whose family is plagued with bad luck. Her parents are taking care of relatives in Japan, so her old-fashioned Japanese grandparents must work in Summer's parents' stead, traveling across the United States as wheat harvesters. Though a good portion of this novel foc
national book award winner for 2013, kids book for maybe 12 year olds. story of young girl and her little brother, living and working with their grandparents (mom n dad had to go back to japan of fam business) and their work is custom harvesting, wheat harvest in middle of usa with big combines and trucks etc, grandma is funny character, strong and joking both. the work is super hard and long, custom harvesters have to move from farm to farm, starting in southern plains in june, working north to ...more
Mary Sanchez
Oct 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: realistic
Twelve-year-old Summer is one unlucky girl to contact malaria in modern times so she continually sprays herself with DEET for protection. But there is no protection from more bad luck which follows her family (like the mosquitoes) when her parents have to go to Japan to care for relatives while Summer and her brother Jazz, "cursed with invisibility" have to stay behind with her Japanese grandparents who must come out of retirement to help harvest the wheat in order to help pay the mortgage. Summ ...more
Peggy Dynek
Jan 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Do you have chores at home? What are things you do to help your family? Do you mow? Do you ever operate any sort of machinery? Do you ever wonder what driving might feel like? Summer is spending her spring and summer with a wheat harvesting crew that travels from Texas, through her home state of Kansas, all the way to the Dakotas. Her family farms, and they call harvest their “mortgage money.” Summer’s parents are called away, so her maternal grandparents come to help the Parker crew with the h ...more
May 19, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: j, not-graphic, life
I am from Kansas wheat country and would describe many of my favorite books as character-driven, understated, and/or subtle, yet I found this to have an excess of all of those features. It tells a quiet story focused on characters from Kansas working to harvest wheat, and reading it was pleasant enough, I just think the book's appeal is too niche and there wasn't enough story there for it to be more than quietly pleasant. The National Book Award committee obviously enjoyed and admired it, and th ...more
Sep 13, 2016 rated it it was ok
For a short book, this was a very slow read. The story is a simple but decent growing up tale, but is plagued by a lot of side-tracks about Harvesters and harvesting and mosquitoes and A Separate Peace which were tiresome. I also did not particularly like Summer, or Jaz, or her grandmother (I did like her grandfather) and it is easier to read about characters you like.
Heather O'Neill
Jun 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Summer is a 12 year old Japanese girl who lives in Kansas with her family. Every year for wheat harvesting time Summer, her brother Jaz, her parents, and her grandparents Obaachan and Jiichan go to work the harvest. This year Summer's parents are in Japan taking care of relatives, so Summer and her brother have to spend the time with her grandparents harvesting wheat under the Parkers. Summer thinks that her family is cursed with bad luck because everything that has recently happened & is cu ...more
Jan Blazanin
Jul 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Twelve-year-old Summer has suffered through a year of bad luck. She nearly died from malaria, which has left her terrified of mosquitoes. When her parents are called away to care for their elderly parents in Japan, Summer and her little brother Jaz have to spend the harvest season with their grandparents, Obaachan and Jiichan. Obaachan is old fashioned, demanding, and seems to find a thousand reasons to criticize Summer. Summer helps Obaachan cook for the workers and, between that and her other ...more
Marco Morano
Jul 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
Sadly, this book just fell flat. I understood that the author was attempting to create a deeper meaning in this book, but it didn't work very well due to how utterly boring this book was. Both Summer and her brother weren't very well rounded, but their grandparents did keep me a interested the whole way through. It's biggest flaw is that nothing really happens in the story, and that wouldn't be such a huge problem if the character were developed more.
Tiffany Ng
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A gorgeous coming of age novel about a Japanese-American family working the wheat harvest in Kansas and Texas. Now I can't stop thinking about the beauty of combine harvesters and wheat fields at night.
Richie Partington
Richie's Picks: THE THING ABOUT LUCK by Cynthia Kadohata, Atheneum, June 2013, 288p., ISBN: 978-1-4169-1882-0

"I go to the movie and I go downtown
Somebody keeps telling me don't hang around
It's been a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come
Oh, yes, it will"
-- Sam Cooke

"The hall light went on, and Jiichan came into the bedroom. He pulled up the chair from my desk.
"'Tonight I tell you the story of a weed,' he said. 'Once when I was a boy, I pulling weeds in orange grove. Day hot, many wee
Melody Snow (The Bookworm Ballerina)
Sometimes work is your best friend. Maybe its not what you want to do, but what you have to do,in fear of what might haunt you in the near future.
This was probably one of the best books I have ever read in my entire ten years of living.
Brittani Laski
Jun 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s-lit
School Library Journal
( June 01, 2013; 9781416918820 )
Gr 5-8-Fans of Kadohata's Kira-Kira (S & S, 2004) will welcome this similarly gentle, character-driven exploration of familial bonds, this time set in the contemporary Midwest. With their parents called away to care for relatives in Japan, 12-year-old Summer and her younger brother, Jaz, accompany their grandparents, performing the grueling work that comes with the harvest season. In her likable voice, Summer observes the varying excitem
Erika McManus
Jun 21, 2016 rated it did not like it

I groaned out loud several times while listening to this book. Usually, I do not prefer audiobooks because I find it pretty slow. I decided to give it a shot because I was such a fan of Kira-Kira as a child. I read it probably close to ten times and cried each time - I'm pretty sure two of the pages are actually still stuck together with tears.

However, my experience with this book was awful. As far as the actual text, it was pretty inoffensive. Slow, and definitely not action-packed, but m
Beth Dailey Kenneth
Mar 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 22, 2017 rated it liked it
I find it really hard to describe my feeling towards this book. It was by no means bad, I actually loved the fact that this book provided us with a whole new point of view on the modern American work situation. As this book focuses on a Japanese family living in America and working as harvest workers during the summer, it tackled a topic I didn't really know anything about before. Added to that I liked the thoughtfulness of this book, the way it dealt with mental disorder, migration, hierarchies ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • P.S. Be Eleven (Gaither Sisters, #2)
  • The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp
  • The Center of Everything
  • Zebra Forest
  • The Garden of My Imaan
  • Eruption! Volcanoes and the Science of Saving Lives
  • Written in Stone
  • Bo at Ballard Creek
  • The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza (Joey Pigza, #5)
  • Texting the Underworld
  • The Vine Basket
  • After Iris (The Diaries of Bluebell Gadsby, #1)
  • A Girl Called Problem
  • Africa Is My Home: A Child of the Amistad
  • Salt: A Story of Friendship in a Time of War
  • Train I Ride
  • The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle
  • One Came Home
See similar books…
Cynthia Kadohata is a Japanese American writer known for writing coming of age stories about Asian American women.

She spent her early childhood in the South; both her first adult novel and first children's novel take place in Southern states. Her first adult novel was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

Her first children's book, Kira-Kira, won the 2005 Newbery Medal. Her first published s
“Sometime it very inconvenient to tell the truth.” 5 likes
“And yet we couldn't leave--it was if the rocks were holding us there. I mean, they were only rocks. But for some reason, those rocks made lonely feel good.” 5 likes
More quotes…