I consider myself incredibly lucky to be one of the very few to be able to read this book before it is even released. Normally I would have used the word “grateful” but I am tempted to use the word “lucky” instead, because it is what this book is about. The name of the book I am reviewing is These Unlucky Stars by Gillian McDunn. But what if I didn't get this opportunity? Would that make me unlucky? Of course not! There would be many other things in my life that I would be thankful for.
The main character in the book is a girl named Annie, a sixth grader, who loves art and is very good at it. However, she feels like she is the odd one out and seems to get into trouble a lot. She lives with her dad and older brother Ray, in a small town named Oak Branch. Her mother left when she was little and just like she blames her luck for everything that happens bad in her life, she believes her mom left her because she is unlucky. Her brother on the other end, she says is an Excellent Citizen, who can do nothing wrong.
The story is about Annie’s relationship with an unusual friend she makes named Gloria. Gloria is an old stubborn lady who changes Annie's life and her perspective to life. On the last day of school, kids decide to play Ding-Dong Ditch. This is when Annie’s and Gloria’s life connects. When the prank goes wrong, Annie is filled with guilt and to make up for it, she helps Gloria for the whole summer and at the same time is worried thinking what if Gloria finds out that she was responsible for her fall. Anyway, while visiting her and helping her out every day, Annie develops an unexpected friendship with Gloria and her dog Otto.
To be honest, I could not keep the book down once I reached this part of the story. It was so beautiful and endearing to see their friendship develop. They both didn't like each other much in the beginning but by the end you see how much they cared and loved each other. Also, the preparations for the town festival are going on and the whole town is coming together for the celebration. They are making floats and helping each other. You feel you are a part of the celebration and want everything to go perfectly. That was a sweet finale to a beautiful story that will make you happy and smile.
There were a lot of things I loved about this book. The way the author has written this book, you feel like it is happening in front of your eyes. To start with, I love the setting of the small town. It makes you feel that you know everyone in that town and also the restaurant and the shops seem familiar. The other thing that I loved is how the author has written her characters. All the people in the story seem so real, as if you know them. Annie is a normal girl who has her strengths, as well as weaknesses that she needs to work on. Her Dad is very hardworking and owns a woodworking shop, which is not doing as well now because of the competition with another popular shop. Her bond with her brother and possessiveness about her friend Faith as well as Dad when he invites his new friend Louise for dinner is quite real. Gloria is an old, rude lady who is on a wheelchair now but was once very lively and loved to dance when she was young. She is the one who makes Annie understand that while Annie thinks that it was because of her bad luck that Gloria fell, Gloria thinks it was Annie's good luck that made them both meet.
If I have to pick one thing that I would have liked differently in the book, is that the Gloria part could have been introduced a bit earlier, (earlier than chapter seven) because for me that was when the story became irresistible. I could not keep it down and wanted to know what would happen next.
These Unlucky Stars is a very sweet and simple story about relationship, friendship, family, community, caring and helping. I enjoyed reading it. The takeaway from this book (as the author says) is that if you decide to make your own luck and make your own path to happiness, life can be pretty rich. I highly recommend this book to everyone.
These Unlucky Stars by Gillian McDunn. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2021. Buy the book here and support Stone Soup in the process!