Lucky Strike, by Bobbie Pyron (Scholastic, Feb. 24, 2015, younger middle grade)--magic strikes in small town Florida, and friendship and turtles are both at risk!
Nate isn't lucky....but on his eleventh birthday, he actually blows out the candles on his first try--is his luck changing? Disaster on the links of the miniature golf course suggests otherwise--he gets struck by lightning.
And his luck changes.
Now everything he touches turns lucky. No longer is he a social outcast--the other boys actually want him on their baseball team, his grandpa's luck running fishing trips out of their small Florida town changes dramatically for the better, and on and on go all the ways that fortune smiles on him.
Before he got lucky, Nate had only one friend--a geeky, super-smart, analytical totally not able to fit in girl named Gen. They were a team united by their misfit outside-ness, and by their fierce loyalty to each other. But now that he's in demand, Nate turns away from Gen, leaving her to turtle watch on the beach alone....
It will take another lightning strike to set things right...if Nate is lucky one last time.
Even though the premise of the story--the preternatural luck of the lightning--is fantastical, at its heart this is a story of friendship put to the test. Is popularity (and perfectly done toast) worth giving up your best friend for? Clearly the answer is no, but it's a no that Nate has to figure out for himself (though most readers will realize this a lot sooner than Nate!). The wonders of Nate's long string of luck are in and of themselves fun and fascinating, but it's turtle-dedicated Gen who really caught my heart. And happily it's a happy ending!
It's small town folksy, without being Folksy--there are quirky characters, and humor, but not so much as to set the teeth of those bothered by Folksy on edge. But though it's easy to suggest giving this to fans of books like Sheila Tunage's The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, or Natalie Lloyd's A Snicker of Magic, the kid I'd give this one too is the nine or ten year old who's passionately devoted to the cause of the underdog, be it kid or sea turtle.
This is the best sort of fantasy for the kid who thinks they only like realistic stories--there's no need to believe the lightning has worked magic unless you want to (although it would be hard not to believe, just a bit....sometimes a lucky streak just can't be explained rationally, though Gen does her best!).
Here's the starred review from Kirkus.