Fortune Falls

fortune

  • Fortune Falls
  • written by Jenny Goebel
  • published by Scholastic (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

“Even if you aren’t lucky, you’re smart, and that’s far more important.”

Fortune Falls is a town you probably wouldn’t want to visit…unless you came prepared. With a four-leaf clover…and a rabbit’s foot…and a horseshoe. This is a place where superstitions are very much real things that have active control over people’s lives.

If you step on a crack, you really will break your mother’s back. If you don’t hold your breath while passing a cemetery, you really will end up dead. If you find a penny and pick it up, all day long you really will  have good luck. And if you blow out all of the candles on your birthday, your wish really will come true.

And that’s where Sadie Bleeker comes in. In a town where 12-year-olds are classified as either Lucky or Unlucky (and then sent to appropriate, segregated schools…for everyone’s safety, you see), Sadie’s about to turn 12.

Admittedly, she’s had a streak of bad luck (that’s lasted about 12 years), but she’s still technically classified as an Undetermined. However, her birthday is in a few days – on Friday the 13th, naturally – and she’s about to take the Luck Test…which will determine the course of her entire future.

As our first-person narrator, Sadie is the absolute epitome of a down-on-her-luck protagonist. Nothing goes her way, and she knows it. Young readers will undoubtedly empathize with her and recognize that feeling (true or not) that nothing ever seems to happen in their favor.

They should be grateful, though, that they don’t have teachers who dispense advice such as “Pass the test and you will prosper. Fail and you’ll find nothing but a lifetime of desolation.” This is what Sadie is faced with.

At some point, Fate must have settled on killing me by degrees — ripping my heart out piece by piece as it picked off the ones I cared about most in the world.

Despite being convinced that she’s an Unlucky, she and her best friend hatch one last-ditch plan to change her fate. She must make her own luck, win the school spelling bee (which thankfully isn’t dependent on luck), and somehow pass the Luck Test so she isn’t doomed forever. But then she accidentally breaks a mirror…and her dog runs away into a cemetery…and everything that possibly can go wrong, does go wrong.

Fortune Falls is filled with scenes (both hilarious and disturbing) of superstitions become reality. It’s wonderfully entertaining and is great fodder for all manner of “what if?” discussions.

Jenny Goebel has created an exciting and imaginative world in Fortune Falls (though not one in which I’d like to live), and the characters who inhabit the town are vibrant and relatable — from little brother Petey to best friend Cooper to arch-nemesis Felicia to the woefully “incomplete” family dog Wink.

But most of all, Sadie’s a fantastic underdog hero who you’ll love to cheer on until the very last page.

(Disclosure: Scholastic provided me with a review copy of this book. All opinions remain my own.)

Jamie is a publishing/book nerd who makes a living by wrangling words together into some sense of coherence. He's the founder and owner of The Roarbots and also a contributor to Syfy Wire, StarWars.com, and GeekDad. On top of that, he hosts The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, which celebrates creativity in popular culture, science, and technology by talking to a wide variety of people who contribute to it.

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