Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Distiller: Doni Faber
Rating: 4/5 Stars

You May Already Be a Winner*
by Ann Dee Ellis
Dial Books for Young Readers
July 11, 2017
(347 pages)

Olivia has had to grow up way too fast. Her dad left their family a year ago, her mom is barely holding it together, and Olivia is responsible for her little sister. Her mom can't afford day care, so she keeps asking Olivia to stay home from school with her. As a kid, she shouldn't need to. She should have someone take care of her, not have to take care of everyone else.

Olivia is an unreliable narrator. She is constantly improving on reality. And she needs to. Because reality kind of sucks for her right now. But her imagination just shows how capable she is of transforming reality. The unreliable nature of her narration makes her more likeable, surprisingly. (Surprisingly because I'm a big fan of truth.) She doesn't waste time complaining; instead she improves on the truth. She is a big dreamer. She enters sweepstakes on a daily basis with the hope of winning practically anything. She makes a friend who has recruited her to do surveillance for the FBI. She is planning a circus for her little sister. Other reviews I've read said that this book was hard to read. I didn't find it to be so. Even though Olivia has a hard life, she makes it seem almost fun.

The story takes place in a trailer park in Provo, Utah. Living in Utah myself, I was surprised at how disconnected the characters seemed from the dominant culture of that area. It felt like it could have taken place at any trailer park. But the trailer park is a great setting to focus on themes of self-sufficiency and community, reality and imagination. You may find out you are already a winner by reading this book.

*Advanced copy given in exchange for honest review