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Beginner's Luck    by Laura Pedersen order for
Beginner's Luck
by Laura Pedersen
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Beginner's Luck is a quirky, contemporary coming-of-age story that is funnier than any coming-of-age I have read before. Hallie Palmer, age sixteen, is on the fast track to nowhere. Cutting class to rack up gambling debts, Hallie has just been dropped from the soccer team and is on the verge of being arrested for truancy.

After a huge fight with her parents, Hallie answers an ad for a lawn care worker for the eccentric Stockton family - which includes a sixty-something radical, her dying husband, her flamboyant son and his boyfriend, and a chimp name Rocky. The Stocktons take Hallie in and soon her life takes a turn for the better even if it is in a manner considered unconventional by all the adults in her small hometown of Cosgrove County. Hallie learns that everyone needs a family, even if it's not a family in the traditional sense of the word.

This is a wonderful book, but unfortunately I could not tell what audience it was aimed at. The teenage protagonist and Pedersen's realistic writing seem like Young Adult novels on the shelves today, but her laugh-out-loud humor is geared towards a slightly older audience. Another confusing aspect is the timeline. Some chapters jump ahead a few days while others will go back a day or two to pick up an important plot point.

This confusion can be overlooked, for what Pedersen does well, she does extremely well. What she does best in the book (aside from realistic writing that accurately portrays teenagers, and her incredible wit) is to create memorable characters. Long after putting the book down, the reader may be unable to recall the general plot, but Mr. Bernard's flair for themed meals, Mrs. Olivia's notions about Gentleman Callers, and Mr. Gil's constant consternation over the amount of junk in the garage will stay in memory (as they will with Hallie) for years to come.

Luckily readers will not have to wait to encounter the eccentric oddballs of Beginner's Luck again, as a sequel, Heart's Desire, is also available.

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