Skip to main content

The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had


The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had

Henry Otis Sims is 12 years old in 1917. His mom and dad, his nine brothers and sisters, the sheriff called Big Foot, the barber called Doc Haley, and everyone else in the small town of Moundville, Alabama, knows him as “Dit.” Dit loves playing marbles, baseball and going fishing, and he’s very efficient at killing animals with his slingshot. In fact, he’s looking forward to entering the big July hunting contest next year; if he wins, maybe his father finally will be proud of him and be able to call him the correct name without running through the list of his brothers’ names first.

Dit is excited when he finds out that the new postmaster has a son his age. He doesn’t care that the family is African American and he’s white; he’s just glad to have a pal to hang with all summer. But then he drowns in disappointment when the “son” turns out to be Emma. And she’s not just a girl, but a prissy one --- with fancy clothes and always toting a thick book around with her. Dit is not at all happy when his mom insists he show Emma around town.

There’s something about Emma though that Dit notices right away --- she makes him think. She comes from another world, from far north in Boston, and they are both as different as a cat and mouse. But for some reason, they can’t help but like one another. They each push the other to step outside of their comfort zones and experience more out of life; Emma tries her hand at fishing and baseball, while Dit begins to understand that it’s not okay to kill animals for fun. They eventually form a very special friendship, despite being warned by some townsfolk that a black girl and a white boy shouldn’t be friends.

But then a friend of theirs, who happens to be black, is wrongly accused of a crime. Nothing they do can stop the judge from sentencing him to hang. Emma and Dit feel responsible for his innocent part in the mistake, and they work together to form a plan to free him. Unfortunately, Emma’s father receives word that he’s being transferred again, and soon Emma and Dit must say goodbye. It’s a year they will never forget --- and neither will anyone else who shares in their story.

I knew from the first page that THE BEST BAD LUCK I EVER HAD would be a very special book. Kristin Levine is the author of this captivating tale that is sure to be a gift to everyone who reads it. Rarely have so many vibrant characters filled one book. Dit is especially raw and alive, with a unique way of looking at the world; Levine’s exceptional and natural writing style really connects Dit to the reader. Every page has something important happening, and then she brings all of the parts together by the end. Another plus is that Levine approaches the difficult themes of racial tension with grace and honesty. And then there’s her sense of humor as sampled with this quote: “Chip was handsome and popular, with golden brown hair and eyes as green as emeralds. (Least that was the way my sisters described him. Tell me, which one of them had ever seen an emerald? But I guess eyes as green as pond scum just don’t sound as nice.)”

THE BEST BAD LUCK I EVER HAD is an amazing story, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it win many awards. In the meantime, Levine’s new fans will be waiting impatiently for her next book.

Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman on September 16, 2010

The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had
by Kristin Levine

  • Publication Date: September 16, 2010
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin
  • ISBN-10: 0142416487
  • ISBN-13: 9780142416488