Goobie, Beth. The Lottery. Gardners Books, 2005. ISBN 978-0571228638 224 pp. $
Beth Goobie must have been an outsider as a teen, because she writes with brutal honesty in many of her books about what it is to be alienated. The Lottery is no exception.
Modeled on Shirley Jackson’s classic story, a contemporary high school clique posing as an activity club selects one student to be the shunned prankster and scapegoat for one year. When Sally Hanson is the victim/winner, she succumbs at first to the tradition, but as the expectations of the Shadow Club deepen and the head of group takes an unusual interest in her, she struggles with her decision to go along with all they ask.
Acclaimed Canadian novelist Beth Goobie’s newest book for young adults is a sometimes-frightening tale of a quasi-secret society of teens whose sole purpose is to control the daily lives of fellow students at Saskatoon Collegiate School. The ‘Shadow Club’ has been around for years there, and is both feared and accepted by the students, yet it is unknown to teachers and administrators–they think the group’s purpose is aiding, promoting, and staging school events.
The novel’s main character, 15 year-old Sally `Sal’ Hanson, must not only navigate the normal adolescent trials of school, classmates, and family–she now must also deal with being chosen by lottery as the Shadow Club’s ‘victim’ for the year. The victim is the one student that the Club relies on as its gofer and slave, and by tradition is thereby totally shunned by all students for the entire year.
Sal knows that what she’s doing is often hurtful to many of her classmates, but she feels powerless under the Shadow Club’s domination of student affairs, and she is also becoming enamored of the Club president–the handsome and well-liked Willis Cass.
Sal struggles to play the game without losing friendships or making enemies, as the club ultimately requires her to set in motion more and more terrible events at the school. The reader is caught up in many tense moments as Sal deals with her predicament and looks for a way out.
Subplots such as a dead father and a handicapped friend/possible romantic interest complicate the basic plot and weaken the drama of Sal vs. Shadow Club, but Goobie presents a believable character and plausible plot, and everything comes together neatly in the end.
Recommended for most school and public libraries, may have possibilities for use in literature classes.