Thank you to Simon & Schuster for sending me an advanced copy of The Lucky List for an honest review.

Summary

From the publisher: 

Emily and her mom were always lucky. Every month they’d take her lucky quarter, select lucky card 505, and dominate the heatedly competitive bingo night in their small, quirky town of Huckabee. But Emily’s mom’s luck ran out three years ago when she succumbed to cancer, and nothing has felt right for Emily since. Now, the summer before her senior year, things are getting worse.

Not only has Emily wrecked things with her boyfriend Matt, who her mom adored, but her dad is selling the house she grew up in and giving her mom’s belongings away. Soon, she’ll have no connections left to Mom but that lucky quarter. And with her best friend away for the summer and her other friends taking her ex’s side, the only person she has to talk to about it is her dad’s best friend’s daughter, Blake, a girl she barely knows. 

But that’s when Emily finds the list—her mom’s senior year summer bucket list—buried in a box in the back of her closet. When Blake suggests that Emily take it on as a challenge, the two set off on a journey to tick each box and help Emily face her fears before everything changes As they go further down the list, Emily finally begins to feel closer to mom again, but her bond with Blake starts to deepen, too, into something she wasn’t expecting. Suddenly Emily must face another fear: accepting the secret part of herself she never got a chance to share with the person who knew her best.

 

Photograph of author Rachael Lippincott r

Rachael Lippincott. Photograph by Alyson Derrick

What’s The Lucky List About?

In this YA novel, Rachael Lippincott explores some heavy themes, many of which are coated in joy. We initially meet an Emily who has shut herself off from the world (and feelings) after having lost her mother. She can’t explain—or doesn’t want to—why her relationship with her boyfriend Matt doesn’t feel right. Emily used to be adventurous, but now she calculates risks down to the percentile. Her friends miss the person she was before her mom died; so does Emily. This is a book about how the people we meet can be catalysts for growth and change in our lives but reminds us that ultimately, we transform ourselves.

The Great, the Meh and the Oh No!

What I liked most about The Lucky List was watching Emma get to know her mother again and reconnect with her in a new light. So often, when we lose someone, especially unexpectedly, it throws everything in our life off course. For example, the fear that Emily feels about leaving her dad alone overnight was viscerally real. I connected so hard. I remember being terrified just answering the phone after losing loved ones in the past, lest I be about to receive bad news again.

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In fact, Emily’s relationship with her mother is what made the book for me. Positive depictions of grief and healing get me every time. I especially love the detail of Emily seeking comfort in the “lucky” coin she and her mom shared. While I don’t have a specific talisman from my mother, I definitely wore her jewelry almost exclusively for a while thereafter she passed. 

However, I was less enchanted by the other aspects of The Lucky List. The romance was cute and sweet, but it was nothing earth-shattering. Blake and Emily have nice, solid chemistry and bond over common losses. While it is lovely to watch Emily grow into her sexuality, I did find myself missing true friendship moments. Also, less lovely is Emily’s gay panic that leads her to be pretty mean to Blake, but such is life sometimes. I do have one major problem with this book. There’s a scene where a character is essentially outed and it’s not made clear whether their sexuality is information they wanted to be made public.   

Final Verdict

All in all, though, I was able to roll along with the ebbs and flows of the book (much like the lazy summer days the book is set in). The book is worth a read just for how it deals with moving on from bereavement, so I’d especially recommend it for anyone who’s lost a loved one. Or just to anyone who wants a mildly angsty summer romance read. 

The Lucky List is out June 1, 2021! Pick up a copy at your local independent bookstore (or library) or online at Bookshop.org.

Content warning: loss of a parent, grief, bullying, needles.

 

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Melis Amber
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