Just Lucky by Melanie Florence

Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book. It was published September 17, 2019, by Second Story Press.

My parents, who had five children of their own, took in one of my brother's teen friends, Bobby, as a foster kid. That boy was broken. My father was a stay at home Dad after an accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down.  Someone was always there if you needed help. We offered Bobby as much love as we could. It wasn't enough.

In my twenties I worked with teens who were in care. Most of them were girls who had been sexually abused in their homes, and for some, the abuse continued in foster homes.

There is a shortage of good foster homes, especially for teens. I have known this since then. I wish that we had opened up our home up for kids who needed them. But my partner and I both worked full time. I worked with children all day, and felt I couldn't deal with more our own two when I got home.

My cousin and his partner, two of the people I admire most in the world, have fostered over 30 children. They make a commitment to those kids and make them part of their family forever. Family get togethers are quite the event.

You are probably wondering why I'm going on about foster care here. It's because of this book. It's because I know the truth in Melanie Florence's novel.

Lucky is a smart young teen who lives with her Cree grandparents. Her mother, an addict, is incapable of taking care of her, but she has a good life. Her best friend, Ryan, lives nearby. Grandma has been getting more and more forgetful, but Grandpa is there to help out and look after her. When he dies unexpectedly, Lucky tries to take care of her, but then Grandma almost burns the house down and is diagnosed with Alzheimers. Grandma ends up in a home and Lucky ends up in the foster system.

As soon as Lucky landed in her first placement, I had to put the book down. I needed to prepare myself for what was about to happen. Unfortunately she ends up in four homes before finally ending up in a place that works for her.

In spite of the difficulties Lucky has to endure, she is blessed with a good friend in Ryan who she has known since they were little. While in care Lucky manages to befriend many other children. I loved that it was often through a shared love of graphic novels and comic books. Through them we come to know the gamut of experiences that land kids in care in the first place.

I appreciate the diverse characters in this book. I appreciate that Florence shows us the racism that Lucky has to endure and how many adults just don't understand it.

While I think this book is appropriate for students aged twelve and up, my wish is that teachers and other adults will read it. At the least they will understand what it means for the children they work with who are in care. At best, maybe they will decide to open up their own homes.

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