Lucky’s Girl by William Holloway

I reviewed this book for LibraryThing Early Reviewer’s Program.

To begin, I must admit that this is NOT my genre. But, I have received many books through LibraryThing which are not my genre and still been able to give them honest, favorable reviews, if unenthusiastic. So, when I got a horror novel, I was prepared to maybe not appreciate the content, but still be able to appreciate the writing (if it proved appreciable).

But, this is not a horror novel, this is torture porn. I was sick at reading it. And, worst of all, the writing was NOT good, so there was really nothing that saved it for me. This only gets a half star because I do have to give some sort of number of stars for it to be counted in the review average.

First, the trigger warnings, for those who are considering reading the novel. You REALLY should know what you’re getting into. So, here goes: rape, gang rape, statutory rape, other coerced sexual acts, incest, child grooming, juvenile sexual activity, violent sex, emotional manipulation, cult behavior, mind control, racism (specifically toward Native Americans and Koreans), sexism, murder, bestiality, ‘devil’ worship, live evisceration of people, live evisceration of animals, torture of people and animals, cultural appropriation. These are the ones I remember. Honestly, I wish I didn’t. Every time I thought the author had written content as sick as it could get, he added on another layer. That did not contribute to the piece, though it seemed to be the goal. So, the goal was accomplished, but be aware that acknowledging that the author’s goal is accomplished is not the same as me complimenting the completion of it. I think it a dreadful SHAME that might have been the goal in the first place.

Now, as I said, the content was NOT my thing. If that’s what does if for you, now you know this is a book for you. BUT, when it comes to the writing, I was sadly disappointed as well. Repetitive descriptors become repetitive scenes. I literally could jump forward two pages and Lucky would be repeating the same things in practically the same wording and the scene would not have moved on at all. There were supposed to be several narrative voices – chapters came from many perspectives – but they weren’t distinct. I often had to double check context to figure out who was talking because the voices were all of the same vein. The characters were static, all the character arcs were small circles: if there was progression at all, there was always a retreat to the original status. There was racism and cultural appropriation, there were seriously harmful attitudes about women all over the manuscript (including that old gem, “she asked for it” TIME AND TIME again), and there was NO COUNTERPOINT. While I truly believe that this book is NOT indicative of the author’s predilections and inclinations (because, hello jail time if it were an indication), there was no narrative or character counterpoint. I’m not talking about moralizing or the perfect character – I understand this is intended to be a horror novel. But you can have people in a horror novel with a different flavor of horror than racist and sexist a**holes. And because there was no balance of character viewpoint, it made Lucky’s onanistic DRECK that much harder to read. And the plot suffered because of this static state of the characters’ arcs and attitudes: it literally had nowhere to go. Yes, there was a story, but it very one note and predictable. The most unpredictable part of the story was what new horrific act would the author come up with to add into an otherwise boring plot. This story relied on sensationalized violence to carry interest, not good story or character work.

As a side note: I question, seriously, the choice of title. The multitude of characters referred to as “Lucky’s girl” in the narrative are also the characters with the LEAST agency in the narrative and therefore are the least interesting characters. If this is the focus of the narrative, it only serves to make the book even MORE disappointing as all we do, when focused on these women, is look for something – ANYTHING – interesting.

I was prepared to try something new and give it a shot. I went in hoping to find a book to enjoy from a genre I don’t typically read. Instead, I found a poorly written book that had such terrible content that I cannot imagine picking up another horror novel at this point. “I know a slaughterhouse when I see one,” and I have NO DESIRE to step foot in one again.

F (sensationalized content in exchange for plot, lack of character arc, repetitive writing

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FROM THE PAST: I WAS NOT PREPARED!

Forgive me, Mark, for stealing your phrase.  It perfectly sums up how I felt about this series first, second, and now third time around.

But even so, it was especially the last book book in The Hunger Games Trilogy, Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, that made me feel as if I had to use this phrase.  I read the trilogy long before I read the MarkReads reactions, but immediately realized that unprepared was exactly how I felt when I finished.

For the third time, Collins does not do happy endings.  But I appreciated this.  After spending three beautiful, action packed books in post-apocalyptic America with almost no sense of hope, I would feel cheated by a happy ending.  This does not say the ending doesn’t have an element of positive, but it’s tempered by the horror of what has happened in the series.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As for the book summary, this is the easiest to be close to spoiler free: war.  Despite the best efforts of a desperate Katniss and a plotting president, war breaks out.  And Katniss has to play the focal point for the rebellion because she already became that with her previous actions.

Crappy summary, but I really am trying to avoid spoilers in this series.  Some of these are inevitable (Katniss survived the Games in book one, or there would be no point to book two), but I’m really trying here.  Of course, the solution to the bad summary is read the series.  Hee hee hee hee.  Evil plan in place.

Remember how I said the series made me think in the review of the first book?  Well this book is always the one I find myself coming back to.  I feel like the character’s choices in this book are much more ambiguous, morally.  War, something I fear with all my heart and yet something that is part of my daily life, makes it difficult to draw those clear lines and say what is right or wrong.  Collins doesn’t shy away from those moments.  In fact, the most powerful scene for me in the book where there was no clear line.  The war was over and the victors were deciding what to do with the losers.  There were good arguments on both sides and it is easy to sympathize with the terror and the compassion.  But both options weren’t satisfying.  One had too much mercy, the other too much justice.  Those are the decisions made in war.

I feel bad that I haven’t talked much about the characters.  They’re all so very pivotal.  Talking too much about them makes for spoilers.  I hate to spoil this series.  So, in general, the characters are extremely well realized.  It’s funny, but I sometimes forget the books are written in first person.  Not that Collins slips up and makes Katniss omniscient, but that the other characters are so well realized and, perhaps, a bit over-emotive, that I never lose track of what’s going on in the other characters’ heads.  I think the over-emoting is actually a well used tool, as it’s not melodramatic, but telling emotions.  It may be that in “real life” people don’t act that way, but to make characters that stand against the first person blinkers, sometimes they have to be a bit larger than life.  It’s a relief that the characters stand out, but do not overpower Katniss, either.

I love these books.  I love this author.  I would highly recommend them to anyone.  Her action scenes are stunning and she doesn’t shy away.  Those two things on their own are invaluable in a YA book.

Why this series is challenging for me:

  • I’m constantly surprised.
  • The moral debates in the literature are phenomenal and truly keep one thinking.
  • Suzanne Collins does NOT BACK DOWN.  It tears you apart as a reader, yes, but it builds you up, too.

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