Beauty and the Bad Boy (Chasing Lucky by Jenn Bennett book review)
Updated: Jan 20
GENRE: YA Contemporary
LENGTH: 404 pages
Josie returns to her New England hometown of Beauty after having fled in the night with her mother five years prior. After an incident where she breaks the window of a prominent store in town owned by a wealthy family, her estranged childhood friend Lucky takes the fall. As Josie attempts to pay Lucky back for the cost of the window the two find themselves falling for each other.
Josie has a passion and a drive for photography with a focus on taking photographs of signs. She is a loner with no close friends (in part due to moving frequently over the last five years). Lucky, much like Josie, is a loner who is very misunderstood and considered to be a troublemaker. However, he shows himself to be honorable and protective, though certainly rough around the edges.
The relationship between Josie and Lucky is somewhat reminiscent of that between Zorie and Lennon from one of Bennett's other YA contemporaries, Starry Eyes. Both feature childhood friends who fall in love. The individual characters themselves are different enough that it doesn't feel like Bennett copy and pasted them, but the vibe between them is very familiar. I personally adore this trope as it allows for the characters to rediscover each other.
Josie and her mother have a strained, distant relationship. I think Bennett did a fine job of portraying Josie's frustration at her mother's unreliability. At the same time, however, I felt like Josie often slut-shamed her mother which I didn't appreciate. It's one thing to villainize her mother for not being present for her and another for her to repeatedly make snide remarks about her mother's sex life. That just made me extremely uncomfortable.
The novel is told from the first person perspective of Josie. Bennett does a good job of conveying Josie's evolving feelings for Lucky and her anxiety about the future.
At the header of every chapter there is a brief description of signs around Beauty. These always correspond to the chapter and can act as a little sneak peak of sorts. I thought this was a clever way to merge the setting and Josie's character (given she takes photos of signs).
This was one of Bennett's better jobs in terms of pacing. The novel is just over 400 pages and, while there admittedly isn't a lot of actual plot to buoy it, things progressed pretty smoothly. Nothing felt either rushed or drawn out. I was pleased with how things resolved and how Bennett gave the characters time to naturally grow without forcing it to happen in a matter of pages. The ending isn't the clean type where every little thing is wrapped up in a neat little bow, but that makes things more realistic.
The novel takes place in a small, fictional New England town known as Beauty. Like with her other contemporaries, Bennett does a good job of integrating the setting into the story. This ability to transport the reader to the town the story takes place in is something I have always admired about her writing. Some of the ways she does this are by having the characters' families be owners of local businesses and by incorporating activities into the story such as the characters going on a boat ride and visiting an island when they live in a seaside town.
Like Bennett's other contemporaries, this book is very much romance focused, makes good use of setting, features strained child and parent relationships, and has a summer feel to it. If you enjoy the friends to lovers trope or stories that take place in small towns then this is the book for you. Outside of the glaring problem of Josie shaming her mother, the novel is well written, the romance is sweet, and it's an overall good read for a summer day when you're bored. If you're a Bennett fan then you've probably already picked this one up. If you haven't then I suggest you do as it caters perfectly to her audience.
FINAL RATING: 4.5 ⭐️