Summer of L.U.C.K. by Laura Segal Stegman

Summer of L.U.C.K. by Laura Segal Stegman
Publisher: Young Dragons/Lee Press
Genre: Middle Grade (8-12 y.o.), Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

All Things Are Possible

Eleven-year-old stuttering Darby believes she’s supposed to be perfect, just like her mother demands. But summer away at camp promises temporary escape. There, she befriends twelve-year-old Justin, who hasn’t uttered a word since his dad died, and ten-year-old Naz, who is struggling to learn English.

When mysterious calliope music from a nearby warehouse grants the trio power to communicate without words, they sneak inside to find out why. After the abandoned building bursts into a full-sized carnival with magical rides, they’re greeted by the ghost of Leroy Usher, Carnival King, who can’t rest until his property brings joy to children once again. He asks for their help convincing his estranged sons and daughter to restore the carnival to its former glory before summer’s end. In return, Mr. Usher promises he’ll teach Darby, Justin, and Naz how to find their voices.

With each challenge they face, the kids’ confidence grows, and they learn they’re capable of accomplishing so much more than they ever imagined. But will it be enough to persuade the Usher siblings to bring the carnival back to life instead of selling the property for demolition?

Courage is all these kids need.
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Speaking as someone who also has a stutter, I adored what the author did with Darby’s character development as this young girl dealt with her anxiety and shame about her disability. It reminded me so much of the coping skills I tried to master as a preteen, especially when it came to being teased and feeling shy about trying new things that involved using my voice. This was something I would have loved to read in middle school and will be recommending to other people I know who also stutter. There’s nothing like meeting a character who has the same medical condition and similar challenges.

It was confusing to me to constantly switch among the three main characters. I liked all three of them quite a bit, but I would have preferred to experience this tale from just one of their perspectives so that I could get to know that character better and not need to jump from him or her to the other two protagonists so often. There was a postscript that mentioned this was the beginning of a series, so I would have been excited to switch to a different narrator in this group of friends for the sequel if that had been an option. I’m saying this as someone who otherwise had a wonderful time reading this book and wanted to give it a much higher rating.

The world building was well done. I loved the little details that were included like what it felt to climb on top of one of the magical carousel horses or why Naz was so thrilled to try green jello for the first time. These small moments added up to a setting that felt as otherworldly as it did relatable. I was pleased with what they described, but I must admit to smiling when I realized that this won’t be the last time the audience is invited to visit Camp Inch and the carnival right next door to it. There is so much more to explore here!

Anyone who loved summer camp or wishes they could have attended one should check out Summer of L.U.C.K.