Review posted July 26, 2012.
Random House, Listening Library, 2011. 5 hours, 30 minutes on 5 CDs.
I was very happy when a third book about Lucky Trimble came out. And this time, I was able to listen to it, as I did the first book, the Newbery-winning The Higher Power of Lucky. Cassandra Campbell does a wonderful job reading it, with a particularly good French accent for Lucky's Mom, Brigitte.
I enjoyed this book, since they were characters I already love. I like the way Lucky thinks about quirky things, and we go off in tangents along with her thoughts.
I'm afraid I would have liked this book better, though, if it had ended with the third CD. There's a big climactic scene, an excellent one with danger and luck and humor. When I put that CD away, I remember wondering what was left to happen.
Then today I listened to the last two CDs, and I'm afraid nothing much did happen. There was a plot arc going for the first half of the book, but then it fizzled out. I really think pretty much everything that happened in the last two CDs could have been moved to before the big climactic scene, and it would have given the book a more unified whole.
Miles' mother returns, and that's a big part of the book. Lucky's afraid she'll take Miles away from Hard Pan, and I do like the resolution given to that worry. However, in the last part of the book, we learn that Miles' mother Justine is kind of a religious nut. She won't let Miles read books she doesn't agree with, and is talking about home schooling him. That is never really resolved. And Miles is very unhappy with the new beliefs he feels he has to adopt. I didn't like that part. I'm a Christian, but my beliefs are a lot closer to Lucky's than they are to Justine's, and I still didn't like seeing Justine as a straw figure, a caricature of someone who believes things that are completely opposed to science. Lucky and Lincoln talk with Miles about it, but I really don't like to see them talking about caricatured beliefs. I feel like they're saying that Christianity is simply not scientific, without actually showing the views of Christian scientists at all.
Okay, I know there really are people like Justine out there. And I do like the way Lucky relates to her. And I like it that they acknowledge that knowing Jesus saved Justine from addiction. But I wasn't crazy about that part of the story.
Several other things at the end didn't feel right to me. Something big happens with her father, quite out of the blue. I wish things had built up to that a little. Especially since Lucky was thinking a lot about her father, and thinking a lot about big things happening to people she loves. If it all had been connected a little more, this would have felt like part of the story arc, rather than a random sad happening.
In the beginning, Lucky gets a very interesting assignment as a punishment. Lucky's working on it a lot -- right up until that climactic scene in the middle. Then it's not mentioned again until the end. Did the principal really accept it at the end of the summer? Why wasn't it mentioned when they were still in the school year? And how in the world did Lucky find out her ancestors on her mother's side, when all she knew (last we heard) was her mother's first name and where she was born?
In the beginning, Lucky also meets an interesting but hostile 8th-grader. That is also pretty much dropped after the big climactic scene in the middle.
And Lincoln heads off to Knot Camp. So he's not even in the last part of the book. It might have been nice to either end it when he leaves, or, if the summer is only going to be a small part of the book, have him come back right before the end.
However, did I mention how good that big climactic scene in the middle was? Beautiful! A perfect comedy of errors, a lovely play on the quirky people of Hard Pan whom we've come to know and love.
The problem the book starts out with is compelling. Brigitte's Cafe is violating Ordinance 1849! The way the book deals with it is compelling. I just wish that had been the main story arc of the entire book.
Anyway, I loved the first three CDs, and still enjoyed (if not quite as much) the last two. And anyone who's already come to know Lucky and the delightful people of Hard Pan, California, will definitely want to read this last adventure. (Oh, that's another thing. The subtitle said this is the final installment of the Hard Pan Trilogy. Why? What is it about Lucky starting junior high that means we won't get to read about her any more? I think she'll get even more interesting the older she gets. Still, I guess if the author wants to move on to other characters and other stories, I won't complain. But I hope she won't rule out the idea of ever writing more about Lucky.)