________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 12. . . .November 20, 2015


If You’re Lucky.

Yvonne Prinz.
Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Young Readers (Distributed in Canada by Thomas Allen & Son), 2015.
278 pp., hardcover, $23.95.
ISBN 978-1-61620-463-1.

Subject Headings:
Mental illness-Fiction.
Mystery and detective stories.

Grades 8-12 / Ages 13-17.

Review by Ann Ketcheson.

**** /4



...I risked a look back over my shoulder. Fin was watching me.

Back in the kitchen, I observed him from my vantage point at the pass-through. His eyes were lively and expressive and his mouth stayed curved into that slight smile I remembered from the party. It was as though he were amused by life. The way he used his hands a lot when he spoke made him look like a foreigner. I could see Miles reacting to him too, leaning in, laughing. I knew Jeff would accuse him of flirting later.

I was intrigued by this Fin person. I needed to know more about him. For just a second, I wanted to run home and e-mail Lucky and ask him who this guy was, but then I remembered that I can’t. Lately, I’d been managing better. I sometimes went five full minutes where I didn’t think about Lucky. And when I woke up in the morning, there were those few seconds where my mind was free of the heaviness, but then it always came rushing back to me. I had dreams about water pressing down on me and I’m panicking, trying to get air. Lucky is calling for help. I can see him but all the waving of my arms and legs doesn’t get me any nearer to him in the murky water. I wake up gasping in the dark.

I went back to my shortbread, adding the sugar and creaming the butter till it lightened up to a pale yellow. I added the dried lavender and mint and watched it disappear into the butter, turning the mixture fragrant. I sifted in the dry ingredients and turned the mixer off when it formed a dough. I put my earbuds back in and lost myself to Sticky Fingers by the Stones. Suddenly Fin was standing right in front of me. I looked up and jumped, startled. He smiled and I pulled out my buds again.

“Hey, Georgia. Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you.” He was wearing a weathered old suede jacket and his hands were shoved into the front pockets of his jeans.

“Uh, that’s okay.” I smiled. “You can call me George. Most people do.”

“Okay, then I will too, from now on. Jeff and Miles just hired me. I’m waiting tables here a couple nights a week so I guess we’ll be seeing a lot of each other.”

I was confused. “You’ll be working here?” I wiped my hands on my apron.

“Yeah.” He looked around the kitchen.


“I’ve decided to stay on here. Lucky always talked about this place like it was something special, and now that I’ve seen it for myself I know what he meant.”

I smiled. “Really? Special?”

He nodded. “I love it here. Don’t you?”


Georgia is only 17 when her older brother Lucky dies in a surfing accident in Australia. Many of his friends come to California to support each other and the family. One such friend is Fin. He comes to False Bay and soon settles in, finding a job and charming everyone, including Lucky’s mom, his former girlfriend, and even the family dog! He seems to take over where Lucky left off, and Georgia begins to wonder about his motives. How much does he know about Lucky’s accident? And why does he never really explain anything about his own background?

      Prinz has written a fast-paced and suspenseful thriller which will keep readers intrigued right to the final pages. One main thread of the plot is Lucky’s mysterious death. Why would a good athlete and experienced surfer even attempt to surf in water that seemed too dangerous? And Lucky was wearing a special necklace as he went into the water, a necklace which Fin now possessed. Had Fin taken it as a souvenir as he killed Lucky?

     The pace of the novel seems rather slow at the beginning but picks up as George becomes more and more determined to unravel the mystery of her brother’s murder and Fin’s seemingly coincidental appearance. As George becomes more and more frantic and often quite delusional, the tension mounts, and readers will find they are swept along until the conclusion. Prinz eventually resolves all of the plot twists although readers may not have anticipated just how the story will end.

     It is hard to escape the irony of the book’s title which refers not only to the drowning victim but implies that, despite his name, he was anything but lucky.

     Prinz deals with the topic of mental illness and schizophrenia with understanding and caring. Readers follow George as everything around her appears to unravel and the voices in her head confuse and dismay her. Treatment consists of medications which are continually being revised as well as times in hospital so that the medical team can assess her condition. Eventually, a second psychiatrist takes her case and seems to help her become more calm and level. Prinz makes it clear that there is no magic wand which will cure this disease and emphasizes that treatment is an ongoing effort to stabilize patients through medication. At the end of the novel, she cites a variety of sources for readers who would like to delve more deeply into the subject of schizophrenia.

Highly Recommended.

Ann Ketcheson, a retired teacher-librarian and teacher of high school English and French, lives in Ottawa, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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