This is the second novel by Cynthia Kadohata that I’ve read, and I definitely like her style. She’s got an intense way of getting into the head of teenaged and pre-teen characters that really shows the world in a believable way. The Thing About Luck focuses on the year of bad luck that Summer, a first generation Japanese American girl, and her family face. It shows her journey into understanding herself and her family’s situation better, and it fits a grander theme of coming of age narratives.
All through the novel, Summer is faced with various ethical dilemmas and her various cultural and personal influences thoughts and pushes on how to deal with them. She clearly grows and matures while still having a very self consistent voice that is very appealing. Even when the reader can tell she’s about to do something that isn’t a very good idea, they can also see why she’s doing it. One of the things that I loved about some of these themes throughout the novel is that there often wasn’t a best choice. However, the reader can see her making better and better choices (for the most part) as the novel progresses.
One of the other things that I love about the novel is that it has a very open, caring view on a family that clearly has some neurodivergence. In the end, Summer and Jaz (her younger brother, whose is shown as being somehow neurodivergent) are a pair of siblings who are clearly close and go to each other with important things, even if they have their differences like most siblings. The conflict in the novel that deals with this has more to do with people outside the family not being fair to him, but it does seem to be getting better.
Overall, I would recommend this book for late elementary school through middle school readers, and I would pair it with other coming of age narratives. There’s definitely some interesting things about farming/rural settings that could be used as a theme for what to put this with as well.