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by Jenny Goebel
In Fortune Falls, if you step on a crack you really will hurt your mother’s back. And four leaf clovers, lucky pennies, and rabbit’s feet really do bring good luck. But twelve-year-old Sadie is used to being on the bad side of luck. When a cat the color of ravens begins following her, Sadie fears that her bad luck is irreversible and may be deadly.
The cat, and bad luck, seemed to be stalking Sadie. Sadie no longer expects to have good luck, but she is still determined to outwit fate. She has too much to lose if she doesn’t.
In just five days, Sadie is going to take the Luck Test, which will determine if she will go to Flourish Academy or be sent away. Her friend Cooper is determined to help Sadie come up with a plan to overcome her bad luck. But when Sadie breaks a mirror, her dog goes missing in a graveyard, and a black cat keeps following her, Sadie isn’t sure she can outwit fate. Is it possible for her to survive her bad luck? And if she survives, will she be sent away from everything she loves?
Sadie is a smart, clumsy, lovable heroine, who uses her wits to overcome obstacles in her life. Throughout the story, Sadie cares for her younger brother. Although their father is dead, his positive influence is shown through Sadie’s thoughts.
Throughout the story, Sadie learns many valuable lessons, including how people (and cats) are often misjudged based on their appearances and that friendships are more important than luck. At one point Sadie thinks about capturing the black cat and trading it for something that would bring her good luck, but she decides, “I wasn’t sure if it was worth being Lucky if it meant betraying who I was.” Because the story is entertaining, full of suspense, and has interesting characters, the book teaches lessons without being preachy. And in the end, the reader sees that “Fortune has very little to do with the charm and everything to do with perception.”
The ending of Fortune Falls doesn’t change Sadie’s clumsy nature. She is still imperfect and messy, but she no longer thinks that she needs luck or perfection. One of the best parts of the book is that Sadie conquers the mean girl without being mean herself. In the process of trying to outwit fate, Sadie leaves the reader with positive lessons as well as a story that will make them smile long after the book is put down.
- Sadie goes to a school dance. As she dances with Cooper, she thinks, “My skin tingled where Cooper’s left hand rested on my shoulder, and mine on his side. It felt almost electric where the fingers of our hands joined together, forming their own little tower between us.”
- When Sadie thinks about running away, she thinks about the Unluckies who had tried to leave Fortune Falls. “Unluckies gave up on trying long ago—tires always blew at the edge of town, people suffered strokes and heart attacks just as they were about to cross over the city limits—like bad luck, there was no escaping it.
Drugs and Alcohol
- Sadie and Bessie go to a wishing well to drop in a coin, hoping for luck to help them pass the Luck Test. “Toss a coin into this well,/And the water spirit tell,/ Your deepest wish or favorite spell./ Fate favors those who luck befell.”
- Sadie goes to cemetery’s entrance, hoping to find her dog. While she is there she sees “to the left of the mausoleum and the black cat, and close to where I was standing by the fence, something was sticking out from the bushes. Slender, bony white fingers. A skeletal hand, reaching, stretching, grasping for the iron post. This was not the hand of someone who’d been buried in the cemetery. It was the boney remains of someone who’d thought they’d be able to dash in and out while holding their breath. Whoever it was had been wrong. Deadly wrong.
- There is a field in Fortune Falls where a ghost appears at dusk or barely after dark. The ghost boy beckons people to follow him to the graveyard. “Almost everyone agreed that at some point they found themselves standing at the iron bars of the cemetery, not certain how they got there but feeling compelled to fetch the poor boy’s eternally resting parents. Perhaps that’s what happened to the person who had been reduced to an extending skeletal hand just inside the fence.”
- Sadie’s brother has an encounter with the ghost, who wants him to go into the cemetery and look for his parents. Sadie’s brother tells the ghost that his father is dead. “Then he got a sad look on his face and ran off.”
- Sadie scolds her brother for yawning and not covering his mouth. “Yawning without covering your mouth was like breathing inside the cemetery, only worse. Opening your mouth to yawn gave the Devil a gaping hole to slip into and, unlike with wraiths, his strength didn’t wane outside the parameters of the cemetery.”Sadie discovers that the black cat is really a Japanese bobtail and “one of the luckiest charms you could ever hope to encounter . . . no one will buy her for her luck, and she couldn’t hex something to save her life.”
- Sadie considers buying a voodoo doll to hex a mean girl.