Half My Luck (Samera Kamaleddine, HarperCollins)
The first winner of HarperCollins’ Matilda Children’s Literature Prize is a warm-hearted and authentic coming-of-age story about the impact of race and place on our sense of self and belonging. Half My Luck explores cultural identity through the eyes of 16-year-old Layla, who feels caught between being Lebanese and Australian. After an incident at a beach party sees a group of Lebanese kids unfairly accused based on their race, Layla’s internal identity struggles are brought to the surface and she must make a series of difficult decisions to help redress the injustices in her community. Based on author Samera Kamaleddine’s own high school experiences, Half My Luck helps to give voice to her own personal struggles as well as to those who often feel silenced or unheard. The novel’s light tone makes for easy and quick reading, which in turn makes the heavier themes more digestible. Whether or not the reader has experienced a struggle with identity similar to Layla’s, this book is both relatable and eye-opening. Reading Half My Luck definitely feels like dipping back into a beloved teen classic like Looking for Alibrandi and would be perfect for fans of other recent Own Voices releases like Sunburnt Veils by Sara Haghdoosti and Tiger Daughter by Rebecca Lim. If there’s something else that these novels have in common with Half My Luck, it’s that they all give weight to the power of empathy and looking out for one another. In the words of Kamaleddine: ‘Empathy is power.’
Freelance reviewer Mischa Parkee is a bookseller, primary school teacher and YA enthusiast.