Beth Goodbie






Faber & Faber/Allen & Unwin
This Edition first published February 2007
Reviewed by Sally Roddom

Entering lotteries, and passing the time planning what they will do if they win, is an activity enjoyed by millions of people across the world. In Saskatoon Collegiate, however, the students shudder in fear when the school’s annual secret lottery comes around. This lottery is organised by a select body of students that call themselves the "Shadow Council." Whoever's name is drawn becomes the "winner." Unlike other lotteries this is not a time of rejoicing – the lucky student is not congratulated. Instead they are shunned by the whole school and become the Shadow Council's lackey, forced to deliver messages and perform humiliating tasks.

Fifteen year old Sally Hansen is this year’s winner. Within minutes of word getting out she becomes "invisible"; no one speaks to her or associates with her. Everyone is too scared to. Any contact with Sally would bring swift retribution from the Shadow Council. Sally bows to the inevitable and starts to carry out her assigned tasks. Sally has many more issues going on in her personal life, that relate to what she is being asked to do at school. Gradually Sally realises that her selection as the lottery winner has a more sinister element. Her name wasn’t drawn out of a hat – she was selected.

People would like to say that this wouldn’t happen in this day and age, that a whole teaching and administrative staff of a school would not allow such activities to go on. But bullying and gang control does happen, maybe not to the extreme in this book, but this behaviour does exist to a certain extent. Often teaching staff can only suspect that something is happening – but cannot do anything unless there is a specific complaint. THE LOTTERY demonstrates how easily the element of fear and mysticism feeds on the school culture and allows it to grow and become ingrained. I found myself quickly drawn into the story and author Beth Goodbie held my attention to the very end. What would I do in this situation? Would I have the guts to stand up against a whole way of life, or just bow my head down and not draw attention to myself?

I can see THE LOTTERY being a popular teaching tool for English teachers across the world, there are so many themes: bullying, control, fear, violence, cruelty, and torture come immediately to mind. The themes of THE LOTTERY are shared with both THE WAVE by Todd Strasser and Robert Cormier's THE CHOCOLATE WAR, both extremely thought provoking books which I am now going to re-read.

May 2007 review originally published on Murder & Mayhem


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