Tainted Luck, by Cynthia Austin

3.5 stars.  Tainted Luck is a short YA book featuring a never-been-kissed high school senior named Levi who becomes the reluctant object of the affections of the new girl in school, Taylor. But, Taylor is weird and Goth – and maybe something more dangerous. Levi is drawn into her spell and starts to care about her, even when she messes up Levi’s opportunity to get a date with the popular cheerleader he has loved from afar for years.  When Levi digs into Taylor’s past, he discovers some disturbing secrets and things grow darker and more horrific.  Without spoiling the story, this is not just a sappy love story about an awkward schoolboy’s first crush.

Ms. Austin has created some interesting characters here that we care about and whose relationships and personalities are anything but conventional and predictable.  The action moves along at a brisk pace – sometimes maybe too fast – with short chapters, short paragraphs, and quick turns in the plot.  For a Young reader, this is a book with relatable characters, suspense, peril, magic, and romance.  I can fully understand how a young reader would really like it, including its colorful language and frequent similes that add flavor to the writing.  I would recommend it for readers through high school.

For adult readers, there are some problems with aspects of the plot, including many unanswered questions and several bits of plot development that raise your eyebrows as implausible or in some cases counter to reality.  There are some elements of the story where you just have to suspend disbelief and accept Taylor’s exceptional powers and the supernatural elements of the story. But, a high school track meet in October where the key event is a two-mile race is something that just doesn’t happen.  There are some other elements here that leave an adult reader more distracted than entranced.  There are also more copy editing errors than I’d like to see, but perhaps those will be corrected in later editions.

On balance, I can’t recommend this for anyone except young readers, who can more easily gloss past the issues and focus on the engaging story and characters.

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