Just Our Luck by Julia Walton
Random House BFYR, 2020, 272 pages
Content Warning: generalized anxiety, panic attacks, mild violence, character passes out, bullying/revenge, death of loved ones (off-page), blackmail, sex-shaming
About the Author: “Julia Walton received her MFA in creative writing from Chapman University. When she’s not reading or baking cookies, she’s indulging in her profound love of Swedish Fish, mechanical pencils, and hobbit-sized breakfasts. Julia lives in Huntington Beach, California, with her husband and daughter.” (Bio from the author’s Goodreads profile)
Before Leo’s Yia Yia died, she had two rules for her grandson. First, “Bad luck follows lies, agapi mou.” And second, “Leave the Paros family alone.” But after his anxiety lands him in a fight at school, Leo’s dad enrolls him in a self-defense class at a local gym to “man-up” his croquet-and-photography-loving son. Until Leo secretly switches to a hot yoga class instead by way of the gym’s desk assistant: Evey Paros, a brilliant and kind of intimidating classmate whose family supposedly cursed Leo’s long ago. In an unlikely turn of events, Leo finds himself breaking both of his Greek grandmother’s edicts as he agrees to help Evey get back at an ex-boyfriend in exchange for keeping his secret.
With nuanced mental health representation à la Darius the Great is Not Okay and the curse hijinks of Holes, Just Our Luck is a charming and heartfelt addition to young adult contemporary literature. Walton explores tough topics like anxiety, grief, and toxic masculinity with honesty and sensitivity. It’s hard not to love Leo with his self-deprecating sarcasm, profuse kindness, and unabashed refusal to conform to masculine norms—we stan a young man who likes to knit! Each character is crafted with care and complexity; not endearing despite their flaws, but because of them. Walton writes about mental health in a way that hits deep and true. As a person who has had generalized anxiety for most of their life, I felt truly seen while watching Leo manage (and sometimes, relatably, fail to manage) his anxiety on a day-to-day basis. Showcasing vibrant Greek culture, the unbreakable bonds of family, and the promise of young love, Just Our Luck is sure to pull at the heartstrings and inspire readers of all ages.
(Pine Reads Review would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for sending us an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes are taken from an advanced copy and may be subject to change upon final publication.)
PRR Assistant Director, Hannah Miller