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The Lottery


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Beth Goobie's The Lottery is a tense and gripping psychological thriller.

About the Author

Beth Goobie is an award-winning children's author whose novels have won and been shortlisted for the most prestigious prizes in her native Canada, including the Governor General's Award for Children's Literature and the Canadian Library Association Young Adult Book of the Year Award. She graduated with an English degree and has worked with abused children for many years. The Lottery is her first novel for Faber.


Gr 9 Up-Goobie pays homage to two modern American classics by marrying the "winner-as-loser" hook of Shirley Jackson's The Lottery (Dramatic, 1953) with Robert Cormier's secret school cabal of The Chocolate War (Dell, 1993). Sal, 15, is chosen to be shunned by all her classmates at Saskatoon Collegiate. This macabre social scheme functions under the guise of a legitimate school club but is actually orchestrated by the secret Shadow Council to exact personal revenge and demonstrate its power. Goobie's writing can be engaging and convincing, as in the depiction of Sal's temporary "conversion" from innocent victim to willing participant. A major subplot involves Willis, President of Shadow Council and first-chair trumpet player, who secretly befriends third-part clarinetist Sal and practices with her, culminating in a perfectly rendered duet before a stunned and appreciative student body. Unfortunately, a plethora of disparate plot elements keeps the story from flowing credibly. Sal's guilt about the death of her father in a car crash and her relationships with her emotionally absent mother, her caring older brother, a friend whose brother attempts suicide, and another friend who uses a wheelchair since his car accident while high on LSD are elements that never quite gel. Toss in the use of LSD-spiked beer as a weapon of psychological control and unconvincing coincidences, and the important idea that we each play roles as victims and accomplices in countless acts of cruelty gets lost in the muddle.-Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Junior High School, Iowa City, IA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

"'Beth Goobie is a writer of huge ability and skill.' Kenneth Oppel, author of Airborn"

Canadian author Goobie (Before Wings) takes Shirley Jackson's classic short story "The Lottery" and transposes it to a YA problem novel; the results are intriguing in spots, but the happy ending lacks the original's impact. While the principal and teachers look the other way, the Shadow Council (aka "S.C.") rules Sally Hanson's high school, targeting other students for exceptionally cruel pranks. Every year, S.C. holds a lottery, and the "winner," delegated as S.C.'s messenger to fresh victims, will be wholly shunned by the student body. The dreaded role falls to Sally, and the attendant trauma and confusion compound Sally's mysterious problems (toward the end of the novel, readers learn that she was in the car with her alcoholic father when he fatally crashed seven years earlier and that she has felt responsible for his death). Playing pivotal parts in this dense drama are Sal's older brother who, along with his best friend, has a dark past history with S.C. (this, too, emerges at the end); a double-amputee fellow clarinetist in the school band; a mysterious classmate who turns out to be autistic; and the chameleon-like S.C. president, who plays first trumpet in the band and asks Sal to help him perform the duet he has composed. Though burdened by heavy-handed symbolism and extraneous detail, the novel raises potentially provocative questions about free choice, self-knowledge and guilt. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)

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