When I read “If You’re Lucky” and thought of Prinz’s problematic depictions of schizophrenia, I was immediately reminded of a book I read over the summer, Lauren Slater’s “Lying.” The novel is a “metaphorical memoir” that uses epilepsy to force readers to examine and redraw the boundary between fact and fiction. I found Slater’s “Lying” problematic because the novel normalizes a romanticized depiction of epilepsy and uses the condition as a plot device. “If You’re Lucky” similarly relies on inaccurate portrayals of mental illness, but honestly, mental illness is not a prop. It can’t be used as a plot device simply to further the shock value of the book. These inaccurate depictions of mental illness not only detract from the value of the novel but also normalize uninformed opinions about mental illness. I’m so tired of mental illness being portrayed in inaccurate lights, but unfortunately, “If You’re Lucky” is just one of the latest pieces of literature that use schizophrenia as a prop.
When 17-year-old Georgia’s brother Lucky drowns while surfing, Georgia chalks the death up to something far more sinister than bad luck. Lucky was smart and cautious, he wouldn’t have surfed in waters more dangerous than he could handle. Then a stranger named Fin comes to town and claims to have been Lucky’s best friend. Soon Fin is working for Lucky’s father, charming Lucky’s mother, dating his girlfriend. Georgia begins to wonder: Did Fin murder Lucky in order to take over his life? Georgia secretly stops taking the medication that keeps away the voices in her head. Georgia is certain she’s getting closer and closer to the truth about Fin, but as she does, her mental state becomes more and more precarious and no one seems to trust what she’s saying. The reader must decide whether Georgia’s descent into madness is causing her to see things that don’t exist – or to see a deadly truth that no one else can.
Aside from the problematic portrayal of mental illness in the novel, I just couldn’t connect with the novel as a whole. Georgia is unrelatable at best, a problem that was exacerbated by the author’s writing style and the rushed pace of the novel. Everything happens so quickly in “If You’re Lucky”: Lucky dies one minute, and then the whole Fin debacle is introduced. Lucky is barely mourned before the author starts adding all these other plot twists, resulting in a messily executed story.
While I strongly dislike this novel, perhaps other readers will appreciate elements of the story. If you have spare time and an open mind, perhaps “If You’re Lucky” will prove to be an intriguing and exciting novel.
Rating: 3 out of 10
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers (October 20th, 2015)
Length: 288 pages (Hardcover)
ISBN #: 9781616204631