In Dumb Luck, a lonely misfit who is “sleepwalking through” Grade 11 does what almost everyone else just dreams of: he wins the lottery. Such an event has the potential to turn anyone’s life around, but as the novel’s hero finds out, it’s a good idea to be careful what you wish for.
When Brandon falls out of a tree two days before his 18th birthday, the doctor tells him he’s lucky, so he buys a lottery ticket and wins $3 million. Suddenly, all the cool guys say hi to him, and all the hot girls want to date him. On the other hand, his dad wants money to start a business, and strangers e-mail him with sob stories, asking for cash.
Brandon’s struggle with wealth goes through predictable stages – losing his only real friend, quitting school, buying anything he wants, discovering there are more important things than money – but they are convincingly depicted. There are strong characters, too, particularly Taylor, the popular girl who tries to mould Brandon into a cool dude. There is the inevitable climax when everything goes horribly wrong, but the resolution is not a pat happy ending. Brandon doesn’t regain all he has lost and still has some way to go on the learning curve.
Dumb Luck is a difficult book to categorize. It’s written in 34 short chapters at about a 12-year-old reading level, but some of the subject matter and language is too strong for that age group. On the other hand, older teens will often find Brandon too young for his 18 years – it is receiving his first kiss that causes him to fall out of the tree in the first place, for example. This means that an otherwise decent tale slips into the cracks between an easy read for older teens and a coming-of-age novel for a younger audience.