One of the problems with books targeted at the YA (young adult) market is that the genre itself is exceptionally broad. Some YA books are written with 12-14-year-olds in mind; others are more suitable for those aged 16+. The thing is, not every book can target both demographics, and, when they attempt to do so, the results can be pretty disappointing.
Before I inadvertently turn this review into an in-depth discussion of the YA book market, let me explain. Charlotte Nicole Davis’ debut novel, The Good Luck Girls, is a thrilling, well-told YA read, but it contains some very adult themes. When the story begins, the protagonist and her friends have been sold into what is essentially a brothel and been forced to meet the sexual desires of every paying customer that looks their way. Now, I’ll admit that these sexual acts are never described in detail, but enough is implied to make me feel this book would be unsuitable for younger readers. At the same time, though, the way The Good Luck Girls is written suggests it is targeted at those readers—the plot is pretty simple; the characters are interesting but, with the exception of the protagonist, straightforward; and there aren’t really any dramatic twists or surprises that I wasn’t able to predict. Honestly, this just leaves me feeling confused. The mature themes in this book suggest it is aimed at older YA readers, but those readers are likely to want more from the novel—more contradictions, more complex relationships, and, to be brutally honest, a plot that’s a bit more interesting.
It might seem like I’m being a bit harsh with this verdict, but I only bring it up because there is so much I love about The Good Luck Girls. First of all, there’s the setting: the world Davis creates is exceptionally original. Arketta is a bleak place, and there are different types of ghosts that are trapped in the world of the living—there are seraphants, benevolent spirits that linger to guide their descendants; remnants, spirits trapped in limbo, unwilling to move on; and vengeants, spirits born of raw anger. There is also a lot of history to this world, particularly in regards to the conflict between the dustbloods and the fairbloods (the dustbloods being of the lowest social class). There is a lot going on in the way of world-building, and the Western-feel of this novel makes it feel even more original.
“It scares me,” Aster admitted then. “My anger, I mean. I’m scared it’s already burned up everything good inside me. I’m scared it’ll burn anyone who gets too close. And I’m scared…” Well, what the hell? She’d already said this much. “I’m scared it’s all that’ll be left of me when I’m gone.”The Good Luck Girls | Chapter Eleven
The characters in The Good Luck Girls may be straightforward, berms of unique conflicts, they’re still pretty entertaining—of the main characters, there are distinct, recognisable personalities and characteristics. Together, this makes them a colourful cast of strong women that know exactly how to stand up for themselves. All they want is their freedom, and they’re prepared to do almost anything to claim it. There is also some LGBTQ+ representation in The Good Luck Girls, although I would like to have seen it explored a little more, as I think the potential was definitely there for this to be a larger focus within the novel. Still, the characters are definitely fun to read about, and they helped to keep me feeling engaged while reading The Good Luck Girls.
I really don’t mean to be too critical of this book, because, like I say, there are a lot of things I love about it. I just feel that with the world-building and the diverse range of characters, it easily had the potential to be a five-star read for me. Unfortunately, the intense adult themes that were introduced early on raised my expectations for the rest of the novel. When the plot and the character relationships ended up being so simplistic, however, I couldn’t help but feel a little let-down. At the end of the day, I just wanted a bit more complexity, but that hasn’t taken away from my enjoyment of The Good Luck Girls or my ardent appreciation of Davis’ incredible world-building abilities. After all, as I’ve already said, they really are exceptional.
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