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Anne Ylvisaker’s The Luck of the Buttons is a simple, yet enchanting coming of age tale.
When young Tugs Button breaks all the molds her family has set, she stumbles upon new possibilities and a mystery. While the majority of the novel spends its time building characters and the story, it is never once boring.
Ylvisaker creates interesting and good-hearted characters in this small Iowa, prairie town. Partly reminiscent of 19th century American literature in the way that it depicts the life of a person, and a town, through simple yet thorough language. And partly, a story about a teenage girl transforming and trying to fit in.
The plot is much like Flannery O’Connor’s Good Country People, with less of an uncanny twist. As Mr. Harvey Moore tries to collect money from the unsuspecting citizens of Goodhue, Tugs is the only one with any suspicion. But, she’s brave enough to trust her gut.
Much that happens is entirely unrelated to the mystery surrounding Mr. Moore, but it’s in the anecdotes and incidents we find Tugs in that help understand her more completely and why she acts in the ways she does. Ylvisaker manages to create a vivid landscape of a down-home world that is all too real for this Midwestern girl. Be on the lookout for the sequel, Button Down, from Candlewick Press.