Sunday, October 30, 2016

Book Review: The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata, Julia Kuo


Author: Cynthia Kadohata
Illustrator: Julia Kuo
Published on: January 4th 2013
by: Atheneum Books for Young Reader
Genres: Young Adult, Fiction, Children's
Literary Awards: National Book Award for Young People’s Literature (2013), Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award Nominee (2015)

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, very demanding, and easily disappointed. Between helping Obaachan cook for the workers and with all the other chores, and worrying about her little brother, who can't seem to make any friends, Summer has her hands full. But when a welcome distraction turns into a big mess, causing further disappointment, Summer realises she must try and make her own luck as it might be the only way to save her family. (Source)

This book caters to one of my favourite things to read, coming of age. Summer is pretty lost in her world as a young girl trying to understand the aspects of becoming a young adult. With her parents off to Japan, meaning their major source of income is disrupted, Summer and her brother Jaz find themselves in their strict grandparent's hands for the summer.
Meaning, they're have to work hard to  help make ends meet or as the adults say, "save the mortgage" which Summer doesn't fully understand.

There's a few topics I feel should be addressed in regards to my likes and dislikes of this book.

It was interesting how bit of Japanese culture and language play a part in this story and the lives of the characters, which I liked. I even learned a few terms and their meanings I hadn't before.

"In Japan, things that don't last called tsukanoma. Tsukanoma very beautiful, like cherry blossom." - Jiichan
tsukanoma - for a moment or brief time (Source)
Which is basically the understand that not all things last. There are somethings that are only able to withstand or exist for a moment. It's interesting there's not only a word for it, but the concept is pretty widely accepted and relatable.

Wabi-sabi; represents Japanese aesthetics and a Japanese world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete". It is a concept derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence, specifically impermanence, suffering and emptiness or absence of self-nature. (Source)
Whereas wabi-sabi is more about imperfections and accepting them. I considering it pretty interesting stuff.

The negative side of this review.. the books pace was irritatingly slow. I easily made it over 1/3 of the book feelings as if no story has developed. Half way, still wondering when the plot is going to pick up and grab my attention. As well as wondering how this was going to pull a thoughtful story or lesson together. Sadly, it never happened.

I ended up forcing myself to finish the last 100 pages of this book (it was only 270 pages total) in order to finish, telling myself I'd invested enough to deserve to know what happened.
Then the last few chapters set in, BAM action, pace starts moving along. Then the story... ends. Right in the middle of what I felt was an interesting twist and when development in the plot.

You're left hanging with how everything works out, both for their summer, their parents (and family), as well as Summer's possible change in behaviour and views on friendships and romantic relationships.

I also did not enjoy the writing or story telling style, largely due to feeling the style occasionally jumping. Summer goes on these, tangents. That are very loosely related to what prompted them, as well as usually unrelated to where they end.
She has a fear of mosquitoes. Which we're reminded about, once, twice, twenty times. It's what most of her rambling revolves around.

There's also the issue, and question, of her brother Jaz. From what I picked up on, I can only assume he's autistic. But outside of outbursts, obsessive details, and being particular about things in his life, it's never directly addressed. They just refer to him as "different". Something about that, bothered me. Because they view him as lonely, irrational at times, and very misunderstood without trying to really understand it farther.

My low review for this may also be part of my own hang up, as much as I'm into inner development and progression, I also like problems being tackled. Storytelling to "physically" move forward and changing.

Recommend: Not. Sorry, I can't recommend this book.

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