Book Review: The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had
By Kristin Levine
The last thing Harry “Dit” Sims expects when Emma Walker comes to town is to become friends. Proper-talking, brainy Emma doesn’t play baseball or fish too well, but she sure makes Dit think, especially about the differences between black and white. But soon Dit is thinking about a whole lot more when the town barber, who is black, is put on trial for a terrible crime. Together, Dit and Emma come up with a daring plan to save him from the unthinkable. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)
Adult Point of View
Levine tackles the problems of prejudice, injustice and growing up in her novel The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had. Dit seems like a typical 12 year old boy concerned with fishing, playing baseball and trying to get out of his chores. Emma also seems like a typical girl, or at least she reminds me of myself with reading books and wanting to be clean and loving to learn. Dit and Emma forge an unlikely friendship out of need and proximity.
My great-grandfather was from Georgia and he had an ingrained prejudice which he passed on to his children. In contrast to his negative feelings about African-Americans he would tenderly recall, “I would sit on my mammy’s lap and kiss her shiny black cheeks.” He loved his mammy which crossed cultural boundaries and all reason.
So, with this bit of family history as an example, I think it is possible that Dit and Emma could have formed a deep friendship though unlikely. I actually find it more difficult to believe that a boy and girl could become such good friends at twelve years old. Even so, I enjoyed their friendship and the time it took to overcome their differences. I liked how tenacious Emma is when trying to learn skills that are foreign to her like, fishing and baseball, since she grew up in the city without siblings or many friends. Dit slowly learns to see the world in a different way; he had never considered that the South losing the war might have been good to some, he never thought about how his school friends treated others and he certainly had never considered that a book might be interesting.
Though I enjoyed The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had, I found the chapters to be choppy with abrupt endings. Unfortunately, this book probably falls into the category of ‘books that adults like to read, but children don’t’. However, this category includes other books that I love such as, Moon Over Manifest and The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. There were some beautiful descriptions that were so sweet you would want to read them again just to feel the words in your mouth.
A favorite quote is when Dit is helping Emma learn how to skip stones, “So I took her hand in mine and wrapped it around a smooth flat stone. Her fingers were cool and stiff, but her skin was beautiful, kind of like the mud in a creek after a hard rain. I rubbed her hands between mine, trying to get the blood running. She watched me. Then I said, “Try it again.”” (p 45-46)
There is some strong language peppered through out the novel, a bloody scene and definitely uncomfortable questions raised for a young audience. I would feel comfortable with children who are about 12-14 reading this book if they are mature. I definitely think adults will enjoy the book.
4 out of 5 stars