Jan 7, 2015

The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata

The winner of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, from Newbery Medalist Cynthia Kadohata. There is bad luck, good luck, and making your own luck—which is exactly what Summer must do to save her family.

Summer knows that kouun means “good luck” in Japanese, and this year her family has none of it. Just when she thinks nothing else can possibly go wrong, an emergency whisks her parents away to Japan—right before harvest season. Summer and her little brother, Jaz, are left in the care of their grandparents, who come out of retirement in order to harvest wheat and help pay the bills.

The thing about Obaachan and Jiichan is that they are old-fashioned and demanding, and between helping Obaachan cook for the workers, covering for her when her back pain worsens, and worrying about her lonely little brother, Summer just barely has time to notice the attentions of their boss’s cute son. But notice she does, and what begins as a welcome distraction from the hard work soon turns into a mess of its own.

Having thoroughly disappointed her grandmother, Summer figures the bad luck must be finished—but then it gets worse. And when that happens, Summer has to figure out how to change it herself, even if it means further displeasing Obaachan. Because it might be the only way to save her family.


Summer's family has had a year of bad luck and it's getting even worse when her parents have to take care of relatives in Japan. Her grandparents need to take over their harvest work and Summer and her brother Jaz have to go with them. Obaachan (grandmother) is strict and demanding and whatever Summer does it's never right. Jiichan (grandpa) is old fashioned and very hard working even when it's actually too much. The bad luck continues and Summer isn't having a good time. She has to do a lot of work, because her grandmother isn't fit enough to do it, which she doesn't mind as long as she can spend some time with the boss's son. She likes him, but it's the question if he is what she sees in him. More bad luck is happening and Summer has to find a way to keep it from becoming fatal, she tries everything she can to save her family.
Summer is a great girl. She's smart and observant. I loved reading her views on life and on her family. During harvest season she and Jaz aren't going to school and Summer has to help with the work to provide for her family. She's so young and has to do so much, but she doesn't mind at all. She might complain in her mind, but she does what she has to do with such professionalism. The Thing About Luck is a beautiful story about a unique family. Summer's grandparents are from Japan and they don't speak much English. Jaz is strange, very intelligent, often awkward, but also extraordinary. He doesn't have many friends and Summer worries about him a lot. Even though her life isn't the easiest Summer's still a normal teenager, that was so great to see. She's determined and strong and she learns from her mistakes. She makes sure her family survives no matter what it takes and I liked that a lot. This book is really special and it was an absolute joy to read.

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