Lucky Linderman is dealing with a lot of problems:
- His mother is a squid who would rather swim hundreds of laps a day than deal with the problems in her life.
- His father is a turtle chef who would rather hide in his shell or at work, or on the sofa watching the food network than talk to his son.
- Lucky has been tormented by the same bully, Nader, since he was seven years old, and no one will believe him or do anything about it.
- Everyone things he is suicidal after a school statistics project where he circulated a poll about how students would kill themselves, this has led to regular appointments with a guidance councilor.
- His house looks like the headquarters for the MIA/POW movement after his grandfather never returned from the Vietnam War.
- Lucky escapes all of this in his dreams where he is transported to Vietnam with the mission to rescue his grandfather, only they aren't just dreams when Lucky awakens with bullets, cigars, and more clutched in his hands.
After Nader assaults Lucky (again), his mother decides to get out of Pennsylvania, and takes Lucky to visit her brother in Arizona for three weeks. The strangest and most important three weeks of Lucky's life. There are no words to describe the awesome power of A.S. King's writing...but I will try. I was thinking of a way to describe this book and I could put only two of my thoughts into concrete language.
First, this book is surreal, like all of King's writing. It is real in that the story deals with real problems, but there is this great surreal element when Lucky can go into his dreams and try to save his grandfather in Vietnam. Second, this book (and it applies to all of King's novels) is like a tree. Outside my house we have an oak tree, and every year it drops about a million acorns on our yard. We try to get most of them raked up, but we always miss a few, and in the spring we begin to notice little tree sprouts in the yard. But the catch is that although they only have a leaf or two on the surface, when you go to pull them up, they already have a huge root system, deep underground. King's novels and characters remind me of this. I always start her books thinking, well this is odd, I wonder if I can get into this, and by the end I am crying and never wanting to say goodbye to the characters. They are like the acorns, you don't notice them but they are slowly building a root system inside of you, and by the end of the book, as you try to turn the last page, or pull up the plant, you realize how deeply embedded they are in you. And after you are done with the book, it continues to grow and change inside of you. King is sneaky, and cunning, and utterly brilliant!