Love & Luck

Book review by
Mary Cosola, Common Sense Media
Love & Luck Book Poster Image
Sibs squabble in cute but contrived Irish road-trip tale.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Lots of information on Ireland's geography, history, culture, and lore.

Positive Messages

Who you are is enough; you have more strength and resilience than you realize; the people close to you usually want the best for you; you don't have to battle your problems alone; it isn't weakness to ask for help and open up to others; and don't let petty grievances ruin your closest relationships.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Addie and Ian are imperfect people, like all of us, but they have a deep-rooted sense of loyalty and good moral compasses, and they mature and learn a lot about themselves and each other over the course of the book. Rowan is a wonderful friend and fair referee between Addie and Ian. Addie and Ian's family clearly love them and want the best for them. Minor character Miriam is a loving den mom to young musicians and music fans. 

Violence

Addie and Ian have a physical fight that leads to them falling down a hill. Many references to Addie's quick temper. Addie was victim of an incident that's briefly mentioned.

Sex

Dating and a breakup are discussed, but nothing of a sexual nature is shown. 

Language

Swearing is minor and infrequent, including "hell" and "crap," plus Irish slang "feck" (for "f--k"), and "gobsh-te."

Consumerism

A few brands mentioned for description or scene setting: HGTV, Pop-Tarts, and Converse.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Love & Luck, by Jenna Evans Welch (Love & Gelato), tells the story of Addie, an American who's visiting Ireland with her family while trying to get over not only a broken heart but also a rift with her closest brother, Ian. Due to a few mom-issued ultimatums and some serious subterfuge, Addie finds herself on a surprise road trip across Ireland with Ian and his friend Rowan. The content is tame, in that there's very little swearing and no drinking or drugs. Addie's secret with relationship with a teen boy factors into the story, with an incident coming to light that isn't described graphically. Addie and Ian physically fight each other, lie to their family, and have big secrets they've been keeping from everyone in their lives. The book offers good discussion points around honesty, trust, and the oversized expectations often placed on teens. Parents can also discuss the wisdom of meeting online friends in real life, as Ian and Rowan only know each other online but meet up in person in Ireland.

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What's the story?

Heartbreak, secrets, and trust are at the core of LOVE & LUCK. Addie and her family wrap up their summer with a trip to Ireland for her aunt's elaborate destination wedding. The timing is great for Addie, as her secret relationship with her longtime crush has just ended. Unfortunately, that relationship is the source of trouble between Addie and her brother, Ian. The two are usually a tight unit, but this summer they're fighting, physically and verbally. Through a series of lies and mishaps, the two siblings end up crammed in a tiny car together, driving across Ireland. Addie nabs a copy of an odd travel book --Ireland for the Heartbroken: An Unconventional Guide to the Emerald Isle -- from their hotel before they hit road. In it, she finds some truths and salves to help heal her broken heart. The basis of Ian and Addie's disagreement is unknown through most of book, but the two are forced to face each other in close quarters and eventually deal with their issues. Beautiful and historic Irish sites form much of the backdrop to the story.

Is it any good?

The Irish scenery is the highlight of this cute but often irritating story of two feuding teens stuck in close quarters on a road trip. Love & Luck tries for feisty fun, but it lacks the charm of author Jenna Evans Welch's previous book Love & Gelato. Addie and her brother, Ian, are fighting over something that happened before their family trip to Ireland, but the reader doesn't find out what the incident was for a long time. Few clues are dropped, so the reader is left with the same endless, uninformative squabble for a few hundred pages. That approach only builds exasperation, not interest. It turns out the incident in question is pretty serious, but it's brushed off by the author after so much buildup.

On the other hand, Welch does a good job of showing the pain of trying to live up to others' expectations and how you can be close to someone but still not fully understand all that that person is going through. The story features excerpts from a fictitious Irish guidebook for the brokenhearted. In reading it, Addie learns some important life lessons, such as how to sit with pain before confronting it, how to move through adversity, and how joy and sorrow are two sides of the same coin. Unfortunately, Welch's guidebook's passages are written in an overly quirky and saccharine style that grates after a few pages. The Irish sites, history, and legends the kids discover on their trip are beautifully delivered and fun to read. And charming, sweet secondary character Rowan almost steals the show.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about stories where kids take off and don't tell their parents where they are, as in Love & Luck. What are the real-life dangers of this, as opposed to the way it works as a plot device in a story?

  • Have you ever made a friend online that you wanted to meet in person? What are the dangers of this? Did you discuss it with your parents and have a plan for meeting safely?

  • Do you think going back and forth in time -- a frequently used plot device in modern novels -- adds tension or interest to the story? Does it play on how well you think you know characters when they're revealed in bits and pieces?

  • If you were able to take a road trip with friends anywhere for a week, where would you go?

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