Reading a Jenn Bennett novel feels like coming home. I know instantly what I’m in for — a sweet, heartwarming YA story that makes me long for fictional places and people. Chasing Lucky is no exception. Within the first few pages of the prologue, I was swept away by Beauty — the enigmatic town that exists as a character as much as Lucky or Josie. With her trademark charm and lovable characters, Chasing Lucky soon became one of my favorite contemporary YA books.
Josie Saint-Martin comes from a long line of independent, strong women, all apparently cursed in love and miscommunication. Winona, Josie’s flighty commitment-phobe of a mother, reluctantly moves them back after a twelve-year estrangement, contingent on her mother’s absence. The Saint-Martin matriarch is stubborn and prickly and has disapproved of Winona’s life choices, driving a wedge between the family that led to them leaving down over a decade ago. When she decides to go volunteer abroad with Josie’s aunt, Winona comes back to manage the local family bookstore.
All Josie wants is to save up enough money to go to Los Angeles — where her deadbeat photography star of a father lives — and hopefully impress him with her portfolio so she could apprentice with him. She craves a family without dysfunction and to live in one place without her mother moving them around.
Josie isn’t counting on Lucky — her once best friend and Beauty’s own bad boy to take the fall after she makes a last second bad decision that could ruin all her plans. The accident brings Lucky and Josie closer, allowing their broken friendship to mend and grow.
This book was a bright spot in a hectic year. All of Jenn Bennett’s books provide easy distractions in all the best ways and it was easy to lose myself in Josie’s dilemmas. I loved reading about Beauty, a seaside town both historic and wealthy that I could escape into for a few hours. I loved the back and forth between Josie and her cousin, Evie, who definitely needs her own book. Even the complex relationship between Josie and her mom, Winona, though not always a bright spot in the book, was well-written and real. It was the perfect read for a not so perfect year.
I have always applauded Jenn Bennett’s balance throughout her novels. They tackle the hard real inescapable truths alongside sweet, escapism. We get a best friends second chance romance but we also get the discussion of family trauma, privilege, abusive relationships. The effect is that you feel protective over the characters and their stories, as well as emboldened and empowered by their success despite earlier hardships. Its no wonder Jenn Bennett’s books are compulsively readable.
Though this is not the first or last book that I’ve read by this ultra-talented author, I still feel awed at her skill. I cannot wait to fall in love with her next book.