Hope is sweet, optimistic and more than a little naive. She has firm ideas about how the world should work, including (if not especially) how her own future is supposed to pan out. If only her family, and reality, would stop getting in her way...
Happy Girl Lucky is, like its protagonist, light and amusing with unexpected emotional depths. It’s obvious from early on that the world Hope sees is not the same as the world that actually exists, and the author does a good job of making that clear to the reader while keeping Hope in the dark. This largely works because Hope is so determined to maintain her worldview, essentially trying to bend reality to her vision of it through the power of optimism.
She’s not just relying on wishing and willing though – Hope has watched enough films to know that sometimes the main character has to take drastic action to get her Happily Ever After, and if the world isn’t going to run according to her script she’s ready to improvise her way through. For me, this is what kept Hope’s character from being irritating in her blinkered view of the world. The amount of work she puts in to try to create the world she sees in her imagination tells the reader that she isn’t ignorant of the gap between her inner world and the reality she lives in, she just wants to pretend that she is until she’s managed to make them match up. I have a lot of affection for characters prepared to work for what they want, no matter how unrealistic or counterproductive those desires might be, and so I found Hope incredibly endearing.
Hope’s siblings are vibrant and fun, each with their own specific family niche to fill. As this is the first book in a series about the Valentines, I’m imagining that different stories will focus on each of the siblings in turn – or I’m hoping so at least, because I’d like to get to know them better. Hope is quite an isolated character, her vivid inner world often serving to emphasise her loneliness, and I’d like to see more of her family. A lot of the characters, including Hope’s family, are cartoonishly exaggerated, so if you like subtle characterisation this might get irritating, but I enjoyed the larger-than-life elements.
The plot, while predictable in its overall shape, delivered some unexpected emotional kicks, and I found myself tearing up more than once. The determined cheerfulness of the protagonist also masks the fact that the book deals with some pretty heavy stuff, including family breakdown and unhealthy relationships. These topics are handled sensitively, and in a way that I think would be really beneficial for younger readers.
This is a fun read, and I’d especially recommend it to people who enjoyed The Princess Diaries, Crazy Rich Asians or Feeling Sorry For Celia.