This is one of the many books I received when I attended the ALA Conference in D.C., that amazing event where I received more books that my shelves could possibly hold. If it wasn’t for Dani from Perspective of a Writer, this book would still be stacked on the floor waiting to be read. She reached out asking if I’d be up for a buddy-read of it and, excited, I said of course.
Below is my review and also an extension of Dani and my discussion of the book. Basically, we swapped questions about the book and made a blog post of it. You can see Dani’s responses to my questions here.
Aster, the protector
Violet, the favorite
Tansy, the medic
Mallow, the fighter
Clementine, the catalyst
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. (Goodreads)
YA Fantasy; Western
The Good Luck Girls, book 1
My thoughts: (some spoilers)
The Good Luck Girls was not what I expected. I like the cover and because of how the girl on it is dressed, I assumed the story would be either fantasy or sci-fi set out in the Old West. It is that, but I didn’t expect it to be about girls who work at a brothel. It’s the brothel that threw me off, but I liked that twist.
Things I liked:
- The setting and worldbuilding: the Old West. I’ve never read a book set there before. The land is harsh and there are lots of restless spirits including violent ones that can hurt humans — vengeants. There are also Raveners, which are men who can make you imagine your worse nightmares.
- Violet: My favorite character because she seems more realistic than the others. Part of the appeal, however, is that we do not know what her motivation is for much of the story. Her mystery helped to keep me reading.
- Aster’s development: Aster is the protagonist. She’s driven by anger and concern for her sister, Clementine. She annoys me, but I like that she reflects on her decisions and acknowledges when they are dangerous mistakes and when she’s not being truthful with herself. I love that she realizes that her anger grows out of fear because I don’t think many characters who are driven by anger often do this.
- Contrast between Clementine and Aster: I do not like Aster, but I like how complex she is. Because of her experiences at the Welcome House, she distrusts all men and is suspicious and fearful of them. She tries not to let these feelings overpower her. One of my favorite moments in the story is Aster’s reaction to Clementine’s blossoming relationship with a guy. Aster believes Clem should be more careful, but Clem’s experience at the Welcome House hadn’t advanced to Aster’s level, so she doesn’t share Aster’s caution and suspicion of men.
- Saving Adeline: This part annoyed me, but it’s such a tough decision that I liked it. What’s the right thing to? I couldn’t answer because saving Adeline does not resolve the problem, it creates another. And even giving Adeline’s aunt the funds to enable her to run away with Adeline does not solve the problem because the girls are noticed and chased from the aunt’s house, so that brings attention to the aunt and trouble as well. Did the girls do right here? Hard decision. I like it!
Things I didn’t like:
- Aster’s uber protectiveness: It annoyed both me and Clementine. It prevents Clementine from growing as a character because she’s not allowed to make her own decisions. She’s not even allowed to pursue her romantic interest without Aster’s blessing. I understand the reason for the protectiveness and understand that Aster is acting based on her own experiences, but it prevents Clementine from growing.
- Aster & Clementine’s ages: It doesn’t make sense to me that they are only a year apart. Because of how protective Aster is, I expected the age gap to be larger by at least 2 years. Then it would make sense that Aster sees Clementine as child and doesn’t allow her sister to grow up and take chances. Since they are only a year apart and are close, I would more expect Aster to see Clementine as her equal.
- No difficulties, no lasting consequences: Despite the dangerous stunts the girls pull off, the harsh setting, and horrible society, the girls don’t encounter many setbacks. They get away with everything and just have close shaves with the law. Although this makes for an entertaining read when you’re caught up in the story, it makes the story lack substance to make it memorable. And it doesn’t ring true to me considering how inexperienced the girls are at some things. (More details in the Q&A below.)
- Lady Ghost: Only because I was hoping for a mystical figure and wanted more fantasy and wanted the money the girls had to get to mean something.
- Saving Adeline: This is actually about the girls’ relationship. There is no complexity. Everyone gets along. There are no arguments and no one questions Aster’s leadership. I ignored that up until this point when Aster makes a huge decision for everyone by giving away their means for a better life. I wanted there to be arguments, disagreements, a fight, something! I mean, the girls put their lives in danger to get that money. The result could be the same — everyone agreeing it was the right thing to do — but the way to that decision should have been rocky. I think after this point my expectations fell further and I stopped hoping for more complexity in the story.
- What happens to Violet at the end: Pissed. Me. Off. I like Violet! And this doesn’t make sense. Considering all that has happened and all the stupid stuff the girls get away with when they should have either gotten caught or died, it doesn’t make sense that this happens to Violet. It’s obviously a sort of cliffhanger or something to get readers interested in the next book (because I refuse to believe she died), but it still makes no sense considering what happened before. None. No sense!
Overall: ★★☆☆☆ ½
It’s entertaining but lacks complexity that would make it a memorable read. The setting and world is interesting, but the story doesn’t delve too far into worldbuilding in this book. And the characters will appeal to some readers, but the constant trend of little or no major consequences might annoy some readers.
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
It’s a decent read.
Dani’s Questions: (some spoilers)
We start with a prologue scene from Clem’s POV. What were your expectations once you’d read that scene? What were you looking forward to? How did you feel about starting in a “welcome house” for men?
Well, the whole “Welcome House” thing was unexpected. I suspected that it refers to a brothel, but I guess I didn’t want to believe that or couldn’t believe that a YA novel would be set in a brothel, so I was surprised to learn that’s exactly what the Welcome House is. I didn’t read the synopsis so I had no clues to tip me off to this.
After reading the prologue from Clementine’s POV, I assumed that she would be the main character and that the majority of the story would take place in the brothel. It made me wonder how that would work out. I didn’t know what to expect because I spent most of the prologue wondering what the Welcome House is until I finally accepted what I suspected and spent the part of the first chapter a little stunned.
I was quite shocked to learn after that one scene with Clem we stick with her sister’s POV. What did you think of Aster as our protagonist? Did you relate to her feelings of being owed, her lack of trust toward men, and her desire for power?
Yea, I assumed that the POV would either switch between the sisters or we would read from all the characters’ POV. It annoyed me a little that we only get Clementine’s POV in the prologue and stick with Aster the rest of the time. I think part of that annoyance is because Clementine doesn’t get much character development, so in my head she’s stuck as a girl who always needs her big sister (or someone else) to save her.
Maybe if Clementine was the protagonist, she would have done more and received more development. But since that doesn’t happen, I’m glad Aster is the protagonist. I’m not a fan of Aster. It’s hard for me to like characters whose motivations are so singular, so motivated by only anger or protecting someone. It becomes an obsessive thing which then annoys me as a reader because that motivation is often repeated throughout the story, which is what happens here. Everything Aster does is to save/protect Clementine (which is mentioned many times) and often she’s driven by anger. However, I like that as Aster develops as a character, she realizes that anger is not always a great motivating source to rely on and that it can lead to dire mistakes. I also like that she acknowledges that behind the anger is fear, which is what’s really driving her. I wish this development also led to her giving Clementine a chance to have more agency, be more assertive, direct her own life.
I couldn’t relate to Aster’s feelings and motivations, but considering what she has endured at the Welcome House, I understood that she’s emotionally and mentally scarred by the place, so she relishes freedom and control, especially control of what she cares most about, and distrusts all men. It makes sense for her character, and I like that this doesn’t change about her to conveniently advance the plot in certain areas.
Aster is Clem’s older sister and is quite protective. She also takes Tansy and Mallow under her wing. What do you think about the girls and their relationships? Violet, their other companion, is a little distant but feels more like Aster’s contemporary. What do you think about A and V’s relationship?
Well, I like how supportive and understanding the girls are of each other, but it came off as being too understanding to the point of seeming unreal to me. I think that’s why Violet is my favorite character. She seems the most human. She can be caring and understanding, but she is also sometimes selfish and, considering their desperate situation, she sometimes thinks of herself first. It sounds bad, but that sounds more realistic to me. The setting is harsh, the society is horrible toward women, especially these girls, and they are being chased by the “law,” so I don’t expect them to be so understanding when their ticket to freedom is simply given away, even if it’s to save or help someone else. I expected some pushback. (I’m talking about when they brought Adeline to her aunt.)
I like how Aster and Violet’s relationship develops. It’s realistic to me and I think Aster regards Violet as her equal because they have similar experiences in the Welcome House. Violet is distant mostly because of her motivation, but I think it’s also due to how she has been groomed. She’s always told that she’s different from the other girls and is made to despise them, so it makes sense that it would take time for her to work past those feelings.
You mentioned to me that you were annoyed they got away with so much in the course of their travels, but you were also relieved. Can you explain what you mean? What would you have wanted to see happen differently? What experience in their travels was your favorite? Why was it important?
The girls have some interesting adventures that made me worry about their safety. Their (well, Aster’s) naivete and stubbornness made me expect the worse, especially since the setting is so harsh, so whenever they got away with their dangerous stunts, I was relieved because I was caught up in the story and curious about the characters.
At the same time, however, it annoyed me. I don’t mind them getting away with some things, but considering how naïve and inexperienced they are and how horribly planned most of their stunts are, I expected some drastic consequence for their actions at least once; but that never happens until the end, AND THAT MADE NO SENSE TO ME! Because of that incident concerning Violet at the end, I’m super pissed at this book. (I get more upset the more I think of it.) Btw, I do not count their close calls as consequences. The setting is harsh and the society is horrible. I understand that the girls, especially Aster and Violet, have been through a lot and need a break, BUT I think the story would have been stronger if one of the close shaves was in fact dire.
So, yea, I wanted Mallow to be eaten by the vengeant (violent spirits) when she was taken by it or to die from her injuries. I wanted there to be more complexity to Zee, like maybe he was working with his father to catch the girls but because he started caring for them, he decided to help them instead and the girls had to consider whether or not to continue trusting him. I wanted the girls to question Aster’s leadership (especially when she gave away all the money without consulting them!) and Clementine to do something impulsive. I wanted their actions and the consequences to have more weight and for there to be more dynamic to their relationships. As it is, the story was an entertaining read but doesn’t have much substance to it. However, I think it’s a good debut YA novel.
The world was quite intriguing to me. There is this ghost mythology that plagued them through their travels. Raveners, a supernatural warlock, pursued them like bounty hunters. They were also tattooed with a mark that burned when it was covered. All wrapped up in this Western setting. What did you think about these different aspects of the world building? Were they used well? Why or why not? Anything you wanted more developed?
The world intrigued me as well. I’d be willing to try the second novel if we learn more about the world in it. I’m so curious. What interested me the most are the different types of ghosts and the veil, which is often mentioned and makes me wonder what’s beyond the veil and has anyone ever gone there. The tattoos interest me as well since they can’t be removed and glow when covered up. I wonder what exactly goes into the making of those tattoos. I’d like to know if anyone else, other than the Raveners, have special abilities. Clementine is able to see the vengeants but that ability wasn’t put to use so I thought it was pointless to mention it.
I wanted everything to be played up more. More entanglements with the Raveners. More encounters with the vengeants. More visits from the ghosts. I want to see if there’s any use to Clementine’s ability and if almost dying often gives people special abilities in this world.
Who was your favorite character of everyone in The Good Luck Girls? Would you have wanted to read from their POV (if your character isn’t Aster)? Are there other characters you’d want to read their POV?
I like Violet. She’s the only one I liked because everyone else was so good and understanding that they annoyed me. Violet felt real. To me, she spends most of the time speaking her mind and when the others won’t listen, she rolls her eyes, like “Fine. Whatever. If we die, we die.” Lol! That’s how she is in my head.
I didn’t mind reading from Aster’s POV and I’m not sure if I want to read from Violet’s. I like that the others misunderstand her and do not know what she wants. I would have liked to read from Zee’s POV, but only if he was working with a Ravener to catch the girls. (Despite completing the book, I keep thinking he was lying about his sisters. Part of me is happy for who he turns out to be and part wishes he’s hiding something else.) I would have liked to read more from Clementine’s POV, but only if that would help to develop her more. I didn’t care much for Tansy or Mallow.
One of the reasons I wanted to read this with you is that this is about girls of color. And from the things we chatted about I felt like the characters came to life for you!! What did you think of the diversity in The Good Luck Girls?
I like that diversity is included without it being broadcasted. Sometimes diversity is included in books, movies, and TV shows and the creators make a big deal about it by placing too much emphasis on it which, to me, is just as bad as not including any diversity. An example is all the female superheroes in Avengers: Endgame coming together to fight in that one scene. It was cheesy. That’s never done for the guys, and I don’t think it was needed. What they needed to do is let the top female superheroes have as much screen time as the guys, but despite that one scene, the story was still about a bunch of dudes.
Anyway, diversity wasn’t broadcasted in The Good Luck Girls and I appreciated that. I liked that this is a YA fantasy story with a Black female protagonist. I like that she’s represented on the cover. I like that women drive this narrative. I like that the relationships are diverse as well, but I also like that the story doesn’t force me to point out these things. I think when diversity is broadcasted in a story, it’s done to force the reader react in a certain way or point it out.
I love your last question to me… What would you like to have happen in the next book?
- More worldbuilding; more about the magic and the ghosts and all that
- Ferron turns out to be a horrible place filled with ghosts…or a good place but closer to the veil and filled with ghosts and maybe a vengeant or two
- Zee is working with Raveners.
- Aster rescues Violet but Violet is being controlled somehow and instead spies on the rebels (I forgot what they call themselves).
- Or maybe Violet becomes a Ravener…?
- Darker story with more consequences.
Thanks for buddy-reading this with me Dani! 🙂