Review: The Lucky Ones by Liz Lawson

Title: The Lucky Ones
Author: Liz Lawson
Release Date: April 7, 2020 (aka my birthday!)
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Rating: ★★★★★

Thank you to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for an eARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review!

Synopsis

May is a survivor. But she doesn’t feel like one. She feels angry. And lost. And alone. Eleven months after the school shooting that killed her twin brother, May still doesn’t know why she was the only one to walk out of the band room that day. No one gets what she went through–no one saw and heard what she did. No one can possibly understand how it feels to be her. 

Zach lost his old life when his mother decided to defend the shooter. His girlfriend dumped him, his friends bailed, and now he spends his time hanging out with his little sister…and the one faithful friend who stuck around. His best friend is needy and demanding, but he won’t let Zach disappear into himself. Which is how Zach ends up at band practice that night. The same night May goes with her best friend to audition for a new band. 

Which is how May meets Zach. And how Zach meets May. And how both might figure out that surviving could be an option after all.

Review

School shootings should not be a daily part of our lives, yet it feels like everyday that there is another one. We live in a world where shooter lockdown drills are practiced by elementary school students and it seems like knowing how to shoot a gun should be a prerequisite for teachers. It’s terrifying. Sickening. We’ve settled into this new atrocity in a way where those of us who see it on the news aren’t even effected by the actual horror of the situation. Another day another school shooting. The names start to blend together and we start to forget. We. The people not effected. Those who live through it, the lucky ones, don’t have that luxury. I personally have never stopped to think about the aftermath that those who survive face. So thank you Liz Lawson for writing this story. It was important and needed to be told. 

➼ May – A year after the school shooting that took her brother life but left her she’s still trying to come to terms with the fact that she’s a survivor; one of the lucky ones. Her parents barely acknowledge her existence and she’s still dealing with the PTSD from the experience. She’s full of anger and doesn’t really know how to direct or who to direct it at. To feel like she’s doing something, anything, she sneaks out and vandalized the house of the lawyer who is defending the shooter that tore her world apart. It never feels like enough though. Forced to go to a new high school after her old one is shut down, May runs into the last person she wants to see; the son of the lawyer defending the shooter. 

➼ Zach – Each day is a slow torture for him thanks to his mom defending the shooter that took the lives of 7 students last year. No one will speak to him and even his friends have turned on him. Not to mention the random acts of vandalism he has to clean up since both his parents are absent in his and his sisters’ lives. Then he meets May, a cute new girl who acts like he exists. They hit it off immediately but then he finds out she is May McGintee, as in the twin to Jordan McGintee who died at the hands of the shooter his mom insists on defending.

The Lucky Ones is about the aftermath of those surrounding a school shooting. We get to see firsthand how May deals with being a survivor and it’s not well. There is so much guilt at being left alive and from her actions of hiding. This book is an emotional journey that had me crying at times because of May’s hurt and knowing that while she may not be real, there are others out there with similar stories to her. She was lucky to have the support system of her friends and meeting Zach might not be the worst thing to happen to her.

Zach and May instantly connect with their outcast status. While the shooter has effected their lives in different ways, he’s still upended them. It was a cute and healthy relationship but more so a friendship each needed in their lives. So while there is a bit of romance between the two it’s not the main focus of the story. May needs help and she finds it in Zach along with her friends Lucy and Chim.

The secondary characters were such amazing friends. Lucy is May’s shoulder to cry on, her ride or die and her moral compass at times. Their friendship was my favorite part of this book. Everyone needs a Lucy, who was so unabashedly herself and never apologized for being fierce and knowing what she wanted. Chim was another of May’s friends, pre-shooting her best friend, but whose relationship changes after. No matter how hard she has to try with May though, she keeps trying and being there for her. Conor was Zachs’ Lucy and while annoying like a brother he sticks with Zach through thick and thin. I’m secretly hoping for another book that follows Zach, Lucy and their band because I need more of them. 

I’ve never stepped back and considered what life must be like for the survivors of school shootings or even those who have lost someone in one during the media storm after. Or even after all that dies down. I’ve considered their grief but Lawson explores the emotions and situations beyond that. It was eye opening and my heart bleed not only for May who lost half of herself, but also Zach who has to deal with his mother’s decision to do her job and make sure everyone gets the fair trial they deserve even if they are guilty. This is a heavy topic especially for those of us here in America and The Lucky Ones tackles it head on while still being sensitive and at times light-hearted. 

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