So I got this ARC a while back, then sh*t hit the fan for me in my personal life and I didn’t get to it before it was long published… then struggled through the first half, if I’m being honest. It did pique my interest though, so I stayed with it and eventually ended up quite enjoying it!
By day, Luckmonkey is a struggling punk band playing in record stores and taco joints; by night, its members are anti-capitalist agitators, breaking into homes and businesses, each time stealing one possession and leaving something different in its place. Squatting in an abandoned building without electricity or heat, they scrounge a patched-together life as a raucous, mismatched family of queer, trans and first-gen social activists.
But when one of them steals a wind-up monkey toy and brings it home, things begin to deteriorate into squabbles and bad decisions, until an arrest forces the group to weigh the hard work of political resistance against their individual needs for stability and safety.
Set in the margins of Pittsburgh in the early aughts, Luckmonkey barrels into the defiant lives of social outsiders working to change the world.
I received a free advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review.
TWs for the book: transphobia, misgendering, arrest and police violence, disordered eating.
So I mostly got this book for the cover, without paying much attention to the summary. It’s just so lush and I’m a sucker for anything Art Nouveau, so I had to know what this was all about… The cover’s not really representative at all of the mood of the novel though.
I had a hard time getting into it, the first third to first half was just really dreary, and I had trouble sticking with the protagonists. T, the main character, was really enjoyable and relatable, but I just thought T’s “friends” were all assholes and they weren’t really well-rounded characters. Once two of them leave their little band, though, it became more interesting.
The politics were kind of annoying because these kids are homeless and living in a squat, some of them on principle, and I had trouble getting behind all their so called “changing the world” because it was clearly risky and useless, and I had trouble relating that to real-life homeless people I know, who’d not turn their nose up at a cup of coffee because “they don’t deserve it”. I did appreciate that the characters called themselves out on their hypocrisy, however.
I especially liked the last third or so of the book. I was afraid at times that the ending would be absolutely miserable, because it looked like it was going that way, but without spoiling too much, it wasn’t. This lovely old lady character gets introduced and she’s a little beam of sunlight that really made reading the book worth it. I’d read an entire novel about Bert.
The novel also ends on an uncertainty, which I did not really like. I wish the author had taken a few more pages, maybe an epilogue of some kind, to tell us more about what happens to the characters after. But it was still a nice read, even if it’s not my usual kind of stuff.
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