Trigger Warnings: drug abuse; sexual exploitation; abuse (physical; emotional; sexual); violence.
I stumbled across The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis when perusing my recommendations on Amazon and it instantly caught my eye. This YA dystopia deals with concepts such a slavery, sexual persecuation, prejudice, exploitation, trauma, and much more. It promised to be more than just a sweet YA but to shock and intrigue, promises it more than fulfilled. I was completely captivated by this story, so invested in the characters, and catapulted along with the plot that I just HAD to write a review. This debut novel left me completely mesmerized and anxious for more.
The country of Arketta calls them Good Luck Girls–they know their luck is anything but. Sold to a “welcome house” as children and branded with cursed markings. Trapped in a life they would never have chosen. When Clementine accidentally murders a man, the girls risk a dangerous escape and harrowing journey to find freedom, justice, and revenge in a country that wants them to have none of those things. Pursued by Arketta’s most vicious and powerful forces, both human and inhuman, their only hope lies in a bedtime story passed from one Good Luck Girl to another, a story that only the youngest or most desperate would ever believe.
It’s going to take more than luck for them all to survive
I have to say I was shocked by just how dark this novel was, especially for a YA fantasy. It dealt with themes that I have seen adult reads shy away from, and did so in an incredibly mature way so that it didn’t feel like these brutal topics were being exploitated for entertainment but were representative of more real world issues in our own society. I have attached trigger warnings to the beginning of this review, especially as these topics are discussed in such a brutal way in this read that I felt myself getting uncomfortable despite not really having heard them being discussed before in relation to this book before. The novel is set against a backdrop where girls from infancy are sold into what are essentially brothels, branded so that they may never leave but are instantly recognisable, all justified due to the idea that they are being ‘saved’ from a life of poverty. No longer will they have to worry about food, because it is readily available along with drugs that they are forced to take to be made compliant. No longer will they have to worry about shelter, because they can never leave. No longer will they have to worry about protection – the Raveners, bodyguards with the ability to torment other people’s minds, will punish those who try to harm, including the girls themselves if need be. The whole process is justified due to the girls’ identities as ‘dustblood’, meaning they are a race who ‘should be punished’. This world is brutal and horrific, and a lump was in my throat the entire time I read it because I was so disgusted.
Much as the brutality of the world isn’t a cardboard cutout dystopian backdrop I expected, neither are the characters you meet along the way. Each of the five girls who escape – Aster, Violet, Tansy, Mallow, and Clementine – are so distinct and separate from each other that I felt completely immersed in their pursuit for freedom and survival. Each responds to her exploitation and trauma in an individualised way, highlighting that true violence of their experience as it cannot just be swept aside, my main complaint of a lot of books in this genre. For Clementine, her way of surviving is to find the potential for goodness in everyone. For Violet, she has learnt that everyone will try to use you, so try to use them before they can. For Aster, an unexplainable rage seems to consume her and leave her a stranger to her own body.
Their unity and determination in the face of an utter desertion of hope, for me, was what made this book so special and unique. Despite everything they have been through, there is something so inherently human about them that at no point can you forget that they are five teenagers running away from death. Yet, they still manage to hold onto some kind of optimism, some certainity that they won’t turn into the monster that are following and hunting them, even if it means placing themselves in danger along the way.
The novel also contains a huge amount of represetation within its pages, from LGBT to black representation. For something that manages so well to do something that so many do so terribly, I do not know why we are not raving about this more!
This was such a compelling read, and the journey the girls are forced to undertake is so uncertain that I felt myself tearing through each of the pages and every chapter. I was determined to find out what would happen to them, whether justice would happen, and was left vulnerable to every betrayal and deception that occured along the way. I expected a simple, straight forward story, but that is most certainly not what I got!
If you are looking for a read that will leave you at the edge of your seat, with fantastic writing and representation, and featuring characters with astounding heroism, this is definitely the pick for you.