The world opens up for our feisty heroine Lucky Lou at university, when her best friend questions her sexual identity. Lou herself explores her own sexual appetite more intimately. Meanwhile, Sam learns that fathers have a lot more to learn about sexuality and fatherhood, even if they are adults! A poignant and sometimes funny book.
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As a little girl with a disability, I dreamed about reading books that featured someone like me. As I grew older, I wanted more than that, I found: I didn’t want books that would seek to cure me, or passively portray me as the stalwart bestie who inspires her friend to realize that she doesn’t have it that bad, since look what her friend lives with everyday. I wanted a living, breathing, kick-ass protagonist that lived the kind of life that everybody else was living.
Lucky Lou Grooves in a Heartbeat delivers on all these counts, and more. Lou Starr definitely isn’t passive; her life is the story. She’s confused when things between her life-long best friend start to go south. She ponders having sex for the first time. She realizes her uncle is something of a coward, and tries to support her cousin in the wake of that realization. Things don’t happen to Lou; Lou makes them happen. She’s definitely kick-ass, even if she sits on her ass for most of the day.
The similarities between disability and LGBT identity-making are also refreshingly touched upon as Lou’s best friend Libby comes out for the first time; in fact, identity-making is one of the core themes of the novel. As Libby chastises her mother for not supporting her in the way she wants to be supported, Lou bumps up against the conundrum of supporting someone who is marginalized two-fold, and as a result, she stumbles in her friendship. But instead of treating this as than a “teachable moment,” Yates has demonstrated that even someone who is themselves marginalized can stumble in supporting another person making an identity of their own. And that’s okay; Lou’s only human, after all.
Ultimately, Yates has created a protagonist who is refreshingly honest about the realities of living with a disability without being put onto a pedestal and looked to for inspiration about how good life can be. Lou gets frustrated; she’s real. She seems wise beyond her years in her honesty: “Do-gooders make me squirm, especially if I feel they’ve been coerced into treating me well. Proud of themselves, they wait to see if I’ve noticed how great they are. If people would just treat me like everybody else, I’d be happier. Do they need congratulations for that?”
Let me give you a high-five for that one, Lou.
Also available for purchase at McNally Robinson.