Review Blog

Mar 28 2007

The lottery by Beth Goobie

cover image

Allen Unwin

13+ A compulsive psychological thriller, The Lottery is a powerful exploration of bullying and peer pressure. Each year the Shadow Council, (9 of the most popular students at Saskatoon Collegiate), hold a lottery, choosing the name of a student to be 'The dud for the year'. Sally Hanson, a 15-year-old who plays third clarinet in the school orchestra, is this year's victim and she faces a miserable year as slave of the Shadow Council. She is totally ostracised from the whole student body, with all her friends forbidden to talk to her or face suffering at the hands of the Council. She is devastated when she realises that even her best friends, Kimmie Busatto and Brydan Wallace have deserted her and she is left with only the members of the Shadow Council talking to her. Sally initially does the Council's bidding but its increasingly vicious attacks on people like the overweight Diane Kruisselbrink and vulnerable Chris Busatto lead her to attempt to expose the Council's power.

There are many themes that could be used for class discussion in this novel. Goobie acknowledges Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War in her dedication and has one of her minor characters, Chris Busatto, reading it. It could be used in conjunction with it if studying as a class. The author pulls no punches in this novel: Chris ends up in hospital as a result of the Council initiated bullying, after attempting to stand up to them.

Characters are well drawn, and the reader gains a real insight into how it feels to be alienated from the student body, while showing the worth of autistic Tauni and overweight Diane. Even Willis Cass, the Shadow Council president, is shown as a complex character who says he has no friends. There is no happy ever after ending, although Goobie clearly shows the importance of resisting peer pressure and how even one friend can make a huge difference in the life of the victim.

Readers will enjoy the music thread throughout the book. The author has Sal, her main character using music as a means of release. She dances to the Waters' CD in her basement, and finds that playing the clarinet brings her some refuge as she tries to overcome the despair at being the Lottery's victim and her father's suicide.

This is a compelling story, which is difficult to put down. Anyone who has been bullied by an individual or by an institution will gain insights into what has happened to them, and hopefully other readers will gain a feeling of empathy for the victims of bullying and an understanding of peer pressure. Highly recommended.

Pat Pledger

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