Being a pretty girl is who Rosie is, but it’s the start of a new school year and she wants to be more. Namely, she’s determined to be better to her best friend, Maddie, who’s just back from a summer program abroad having totally blossomed into her own looks. Rosie isn’t thrilled when Maddie connects with a football player who Rosie was hooking up with—but if it makes her friend happy, she’s prepared to move on. Plus someone even more interesting has moved to town: Alex, who recently garnered public attention after he stopped a classmate from carrying out a shooting rampage at his old high school. Rosie is drawn to Alex in a way she’s never really experienced for a boy before—and she is surprised to discover that, unlike every other guy, he seems to see more to her than her beauty.
Then one night, in the midst of a devastating storm, Rosie suffers an assault that tears apart her life and friendship with Maddie. Forced to face uncomfortable truths about beauty, reputation, and what it really means to be a friend, Rosie realizes that change doesn’t always happen the way you want it to—every disaster has consequences. But with a lot of help and the right people around you, there might also be a way forward.
Trigger warning – book contains scene of sexual assault
Lucky Girl is a book that discusses the underlying rape culture that exists in everyday life – the one where a regular party girl is slut-shamed easily, where she doubts herself because she thinks she is responsible for inciting the crime – you know, regular ingrained misogyny. Rosie is pretty – the whole town knows it, and she loves it. She likes that she can have any boy she wants, and when her friend Maddie returns, from her summer abroad, more beautiful, she is a little jealous and unsure at first. She thought her friendly dynamic was based around the fact that she is the prettier and more experienced one. But then when Maddie’s new boyfriend assaults Rosie at a party, and Maddie thinks she was hooking up, Rosie is at a loss as how to explain it to her. Firstly, she feels guilty for attracting his attention (even though she had hooked up with him before Maddie and he got together) and secondly, she feels like she has projected this image of a loose party girl who no one will take seriously.
The book subtly approaches these topics of slut-shaming, rape culture, prejudices, and how boys get away easily with stuff, as well as how girls are conditioned into blaming themselves for other’s reactions to them. Rosie almost becomes a rape statistic and her first response is to deny anything ever happened. She is embarrassed by it, blames herself for it, feels unworthy of her friendship because of it – while the boy who did it still goes on living his life as normal. And although it comes from the perspective of a girl who is pretty and therefore more likely to gain unwanted attention, it also points out that this is a universal problem. There is also a very important sex-positive message which while not overt, still is pervasive in the book’s theme.
While I loved the message this book gives, and how it is a good example of a coming-of-age novel that approaches topics like sexuality subtly, it is perhaps not a book I would recommend solely on the basis of that. Like, if you wanted me to prescribe a book to you about said topic, this wouldn’t be the first book to spring to my mind. This is because while it does speak about these things, it doesn’t feel fully invested in it. There are too many plot threads running around like the storm, that whole story arc with Alex (which felt extraneous) and her arc with her sister – it felt underdeveloped and unpolished in those regards. The writing is okay, but nothing to jump up excitedly about. In short, despite the way the author handled these serious topics, it ultimately felt like an average sort of book.
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Balzer + Bray, via Edelweiss.