The Lottery is a gripping story of Sal Hansen, the current ‘dud of the year’ in her high school. The leading group in her school the Celts is front for the Shadow Council. The Shadow Council terrorize members of the school community to maintain its status as the most influential group in the school community. Teachers and administrative staff are oblivious to the activities of the Shadow Council. The Council picks one student each year to do their bidding. The rest of the school is required to shun the lottery winner – the dud of the year. Anyone who does not comply is hurt or humiliated as the Council sees fit.
The most difficult part of the process for Sal is the loss of her closest friends. She is supported by her brother and his best friend as she tries to navigate her way through the oppression. The president of the Shadow Council is also troubled by his role in the whole process and quietly befriends Sal.
The complex and haunting nature of the story draws in the reader and propels the story forward. I was struck by the location of the story, in my own home town. The imaginary high school was shaped in my imagination into my own high school. The ideas in this novel can lead into wonderful discussion about social dynamics, the nature of bullying, tough choices, isolation. Each of the characters surrounding Sal have issues which would open windows or provide mirrors for students – the high functioning student with autism, the wheelchair bound student with double leg amputation, the student struggling with obesity, the student with mental illness.
I enjoyed this story. It is somehow both realistic and exaggerated to an extreme. The story is both hopeful and dreadful. It is a book that I found much easier to take than Boy O’Boy, yet hits some similar tragic issues. Beth Goobie infuses her protagonist with strength and must believe in the power of the individual to change their community. This hope for change is what rings through in an otherwise bleak story.