Book Review: THESE UNLUCKY STARS, by Gillian McDunn

Annie Logan has always felt like the odd one in her family since her mother left them. She’s convinced that she is unlucky; bad things always happen to her, and she doesn’t have a single friend. Her brother Ray and her dad are practical and seemingly happy-go-lucky. Things always seem to work out for Ray who’s a A student and all-round responsible kid. They live in a small mountain town where their father runs a hardware store that may not be doing as well as it used to.

Things take an interesting turn when Annie forms an unlikely friendship with a grumpy old woman named Gloria. Around the same time, the town is planning a parade to gain more publicity. Annie is frustrated that her float design ideas aren’t welcome by her dad, despite the fact that she’s the artist in the family. As Annie gets to know Gloria, and things start to shift within her own family as they prepare for the parade, Annie learns that life is what you make of it.

I adored this story. Annie’s rambunctious tone had me from the first page. She’s young and chubby, and trying to figure out who she is. My heart went out to her because I understand how it can be when your view of the world around you limits you. She is so convinced that she just has bad luck — or perhaps it’s easier to believe that instead of taking life by the horns. I liked watching her befriend Faith and I just thoroughly enjoyed being in Annie’s head.

Annie’s relationships in this book are complicated, whether with her dad, brother, Gloria, Faith, or the other boys in this story. Yet, it is heartwarming to see how fortunate she is to be surrounded by decent people who look out for her. In many ways, this book is an ode to living in a small town, how comforting it can be to be surrounded by people who love you and look out for you. I loved the way we learn about Annie’s mother, and the sensitive way the author portrays her situation — although not everyone with the same issues would react in the same way.

Finally, at the heart of this story is a child building a friendship (albeit, very reluctantly) with an elderly person. I love books with this narrative arc, and I enjoyed Gloria’s dry wit and all the wise words she tells Annie throughout the story. The writing in this book is poignant, insightful, and just a joy to read, especially for middle-grade literature.


Afoma Umesi is a freelance writer and editor with a voracious appetite for children’s literature. She blogs about books at Reading Middle Grade.

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