Summary: Every year at Saskatoon Collegiate, a lottery takes place to choose a victim and servant for Shadow. Whoever is chosen is treated as a pariah at school even by their friends and forced to run errands distributing the Shadow’s orders to the rest of the student body. When Sal’s name comes up, she’s already got her own problems. Her father killed himself by running his car into a tree when Sal was with him, and her mom is a detached parent who is having trouble connecting with her children through her grief. As Sal is immersed in Shadow and loses her friends, she must decide if she is willing to play by the rules or if she can change things with the love and support of her brother Dusty. Turns out they have more in common than she realised.
Number of Pages: 264
Age Range: 15-17
Review: What I love about Beth Goobie’s writing is that there is so much packed into it. My summary only captures a piece of what’s in The Lottery.
I love reading about the strong female characters Goobie presents. Sal is faced with a horrible proposition: be the victim of Shadow, the secret society of the school, giving up her friends and integrity all to keep the system going for a year, or refuse to obey and risk social suicide. On top of what she’s already dealing with, it is too much, and thankfully her brother Dusty helps her rediscover herself before she completely looses any sense of who she is.
Goobie explores the dynamics of power and entitlement in a high school setting, thoughtfully pointing out through Sal’s astute observations that everyone plays a role in choosing a victim and letting Shadow stay in power. At first it is easy to see members of Shadow as the villains, yet the way other students acquiesce without a fight proves the situation is more complicated than it appears. There is a dark side in this book, but it’s in everyone and doesn’t belong to just one group.
Tension-filled with the element of an accident you just can’t look away from, The Lottery also has wonderful, quirky characters Sal only meets because she suddenly finds herself on the outside just like them. Her new social position gives her a different view, and she is able to make new friends who are honest and real. I especially liked Diane and Tauni and the way they connected in the end.
The aspect of Sal’s blue music and how it captured her true self and talent was excellent. Goobie’s writing is expressive and even though I couldn’t hear the music, I did feel how freeing it was for her. Music serves to distract Sal, but also to guide her and help her claim herself. I also loved the piece called Inside the Question.
So much of this book is about having the courage to stand up for your convictions; to do what you know is right. Though Sal takes some time to figure it out and in the meantime people she cares about are hurt, she still does her best to turn things around when she knows things have gone too far. Too far proves to be a bit of a relative term as several terrible things happen first, but her realisation about her father helps turn things around, as does the continual support of her brother Dusty.
I feel like my review has just scratched the surface though. The Lottery is a worthwhile, enticing read with a lot between the book covers.
“What had come to her, alone in that darkness, had been a voice, a deep blue voice that sang without words. It had come to her as if it knew her, as if it had always known her, as if it knew exactly the way her heart had once sung and the melodies it needed to hear again. For months after her father died, Sal had gone into her room, curled up alone, and waited for the blue voice to find her. Then, for some reason, she’d stopped – stopped so completely that for seven years she’d forgotten about the voice and its aching beauty until now.” – Sal from The Lottery by Beth Goobie, page 32
“Just this afternoon on her way to English, Sal had passed the former lottery winner in the hall with two of her friends. Jenny had been talking a mile a minute, her eyes darting like a dragonfly, here, there, landing nowhere, as if everything she saw an illusion, a shifting hologram of smiles and laughter, and beyond this stretched the long ache of a truth she’d carry alone for the rest of her life.” – Sal from The Lottery by Beth Goobie, page 50
“The air peeled back on itself then, tearing away the surface reality Sal had always known and leaving her with something entirely different. Everything still looked the same, the surface appeared intact, but she knew it was gone, completely gone. What she was left with was a world of strangers who looked like friends – friends she used to believe in, friends with whom she’d tossed small jokes and confidences back and forth, not realizing these carefree disclosures had been small parts of her body, and the joke had always been on her.” – Sal’s observation of Jenny, last year’s victim from The Lottery by Beth Goobie, pages 68-69
“The jeers began, the crowd fencing her in, Diane staring without expression at their vicious yapping mouths. She couldn’t hear them, Sal realized suddenly. Somewhere inside herself, Diane had found the switch that cut off the torment of sound entering her brain. The world had been disconnected, and the faces that surrounded her sneered and leered without meaning.” – Sal’s observations of Diane from The Lottery by Beth Goobie, page 146
“‘Then why is he on Shadow?’ exploded Dusty. ‘Believe me, if you’re on Shadow, you are Shadow. No exceptions.’
‘I don’t know,’ Sal repeated. ‘Nothing fits the way it used to, there is no black and white. The way I see it, everyone at S.C. is living both sides of the same coin. We all support Shadow, run off and stomp on some victim whenever they tell us to. At the same time, we’re all victims-in-waiting, and any one of us could become the next target. The victim and the assassin are living inside each one of us, we all play both parts. We keep the whole thing going, we’re doing this to ourselves. Every year, the entire student body holds its breath until one kid gets chosen to be the symbol for what’s happening inside everyone else.'” – Conversation between Dusty and Sal about Shadow from The Lottery by Beth Goobie, page 184
“A gladness leapt through Sal, a sighing ache, and then sound began to unfold like a dream coming awake. Slow notes flowed from the clarinet, a kind of conversation, a speaking that came from a deep wounded part of herself. This part had no words, only sound and the song that came out that sound. Swimming deeper and deeper into the song of herself, Sal rose and fell on an ocean of notes until she forgot she was holding a clarinet, forgot she was anything but a long singing wave of blue. Sound lifted directly from her body – it was blue, it was honey and blush pink, it was a vivid scintillating flash of orange. Then it was black as Tauni Morrison found the mouth in her face and began to sing, voice pulsing from her in wave after wave of endless, wordless, merciful blue.” – Sal from The Lottery by Beth Goobie, page 192
Sal giggled uncertainly and Bryden tilted his head back, dragging intently on his cigarette. ‘Then she came up with something that really blew me away. “Remember this, kiddo,” she said, getting out her claws and poking me again. “You’re not a burden, you’re a privilege. There’s some that know this truth about themselves, and the rest ache their whole lives long trying to find it. Now you get working on yourself until you believe what I just told you, and then you go out there and grab everything life has to offer you.” Then she got up and toddled off to poke and harass everyone else in the ward into crawling back into some self-respect. That was one cool old lady.'” – Bryden from The Lottery by Beth Goobie, page 207
“‘You believe in the victim and the lottery, you believe in Shadow, don’t you? And you know why you believe in them? Because you need them. You need Shadow to keep you in your place.’
‘And what is my place?’ Willis’s eyes narrowed.
‘Afraid of what?’
‘Of yourself,’ Sal said simply. ‘You’re afraid of the possibility of yourself. As long as Shadow keeps you in your place, you don’t have to think about who you would be if you were choosing. That’s what the question is, isn’t it? Who could I be if I wasn’t always so afraid?'” – Conversation between Sal and Willis from The Lottery by Beth Goobie, page 259
The Lottery by Beth Goobie, is published by Orca Book Publishers, (2002).