Thursday, July 26, 2012

Review: One Good Hustle by Billie Livingston

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One Good Hustle
Billie Livingston
Release date: July 24th 2012
by Random House of Canada


The child of 2 con artists, 16-year-old Sammie Bell always prided herself on knowing the score. But now she finds herself backed into a corner. After a hustle gone dangerously wrong, her mother, Marlene, is sliding into an abyss of alcoholic depression, spending her days fantasizing aloud about death–a goal Sammie is tempted to help her accomplish. Horrified by the appeal of this, Sammie packs a bag and leaves her mother to her own devices.

With her father missing in action, she has nowhere else to go but the home of a friend with 2 parents who seem to actually love their daughter and each other–and who awkwardly try to extend some semblance of family to Sammie. Throughout a long summer of crisis among the normals, Sammie is torn between her longing for the approval of the con-man father she was named for and her desire for the “weird, spearmint-fresh feeling” of life in the straight world. Sammie wants to be normal but fears that where she comes from makes that beyond the realm of possibility.

One Good Hustle chronicles 2 months in Sammie Bell’s struggle with her dread that she is somehow doomed genetically to be just another hustler.

*A copy was provided by Random House of Canada for review purposes*

As the child of 2 hustlers, Sammie did not have it easy. Now that her dad has left, and her mother spends her days (and nights) drinking, she has no choice but to go live at her friend’s house where she longs for… something. Her father? Normalcy? Love? One Good Hustle is the story of a young girl’s struggle over her identity, over how her life is likely to turn out.

As this is a chronicle, it’s a bit different from my typical contemporary reads. Instead of a front to back story, it’s essentially a simple, and thoroughly engrossing, depiction of Sammie’s life as a hustler’s daughter. From as far as she can remember, her parents have involved her in scams. Making her a part of their hustles and showing her the ropes. Due to her upbringing, one might expect Sammie to be this broken criminal with no sense of right and wrong. Instead, Sammie is a well-rounded, disciplined teenager who, even though she has done her share of cons, is in her right mind. She’s simply afraid that she’s doomed to end up like her parents. I found her personality very realistic for her situation. Even through all her mother’s faults, she stays a loyal and loving daughter. Never failing to have her back, even when she knows what people are saying is true. I loved her cleverness and spunky attitude throughout which makes the narration especially engaging.

Billie Livingston does not shy away from harsh situations and tough love in this novel. She shows us the nitty gritty of such a lifestyle and its consequences. Frequent flashbacks send us into Sammie’s childhood where we get instances of what it was like for her during a hustle, and, eventually, to the events that left her on her friend’s doorstep with a missing father and a drunk mother. When she’s taken in by her friend Jill’s family, she finally gets a glimpse of normalcy; getting to experience the other side of the coin. Consequently making her yearn, even more so, for a normal life. If I had one word to describe this story, it would be dirty. It’s rough, it’s jagged, and it’s a life that is not sugarcoated. I think it’s even listed as an adult novel despite being a teenager’s story. So don’t go in this expecting fluffiness and rainbows. There’s swearing, and cheats, and let downs, but there’s a little romance, humor, and wit to light up the grit, some.

Dark and riveting, Billie Livingston combines a dangerous atypical lifestyle with an insightful narrative of a teenager born on the wrong path. Don’t expect an action-packed, edge of your seat novel, though. It’s a chronicle of Sammie tackling what life has given her, rather than an action adventure. All in all, One Good Hustle is a brilliantly told and brutally honest story of one person’s struggles.

4 Hot Espressos
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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.
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29 Responses to “Review: One Good Hustle by Billie Livingston”

  1. Nick

    Oh wow! This is the first time I’m seeing this book and it sounds exactly my kind of book. I love books that portray realistic situations. I’m going to have to check this book out. It does sound like an intense story.
    Lovely review, Giselle. Glad you enjoyed it so much. 🙂

  2. Amy

    This sounds really great!! I love a good strong character and it sounds like Sammie is. It sounds like the way it is told is really great too. Fantastic review hon!!! I will have to check this out.

  3. Christina

    That is very unique and totally new to me. I’m not sure if the chronicle style would work for me. It sounds dangerously close to memoirs like The Glass Castle, which are not entertaining to me, though they are to so many others.

    Glad you enjoyed it, though!

  4. Sam

    I actually added this book to my TBR yesterday after I saw you rate it on Goodreads. It sounds really quite different to the books I would usually go for but I’m still drawn to it! Great review, Giselle. 🙂

  5. Alexa

    I think this sounds really interesting. It comes across as a character study, of sorts, to me simply because it focuses primarily on getting to know Sammie and her life. I do love the idea of it though!

  6. bookworm105

    Never heard of this one but it sounds great. Don’t get books with cons that much. It sounds like my kind of book.

    Great review and thanks for sharing! =D

  7. Mary @ BookSwarm

    Nice! This sounds incredibly intriguing. We don’t see a whole lot of hustler books and I like that she keeps a good head on her shoulders despite what her parents are doing to her.

  8. Melissas Eclectic Bookshelf

    I hadn’t heard of this one but it sounds pretty powerful. Sounds like a great combination of a teen coming of age while dealing with her past and tough family issues. I’m really curious about this one now.

  9. Katie @ BlookGirl

    I decided to read this by the middle of the book’s synopsis. Your review, muffin, was just icing on the cake! 🙂 This book sounds amazing and I can’t _wait_ to give it a read!

  10. Shooting Stars Mag

    Great review, Giselle! You’e great at bringing me books I’d never heard of…I think I might really enjoy this one. I like stories that show the grittier side to life.


  11. -Ria xo

    This sounds like such a great book! Sammie sounds absolutely wonderful. When I first read the synopsis, I was enticed. Then reading your review has got me desperate for this! “swearing, and cheats, and let downs, but there’s a little romance, humor, and wit to light up the grit, some” SOunds perfect.<3

    Thanks for a great review, Giselle.(:

  12. Katja Weinert

    This sounds like a great read, and it goes to show that novels don’t all have to be about the end of the world to be gripping. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  13. Jennifer

    This sounds really good and profound. It also seems very real which I like as well. Great review, Giselle! & thanks for sharing 🙂

  14. Chapter by Chapter

    I’ve been a little curious about this one! I feel like this is a book that i would really enjoy! I’ll have to check it out. Love the review. You’ve helped me decide 🙂

  15. Meg K.

    This book sounds great! It’s nice to hear about an MC who doesn’t shy away from harsh situations AND, especially, tough love. I think it’s intriguing how you say that this is a pretty simple book yet it’s so entertaining. I think I might check this out if I see it around!

    Great review, Giselle! 🙂

  16. Giselle

    Thanks everyone! I really hope you give it a try this book didn’t get the attention it should be getting!

    @Lindsey: Thanks Lindsey I’m glad for the newsletter or I wouldn’t have heard of it!

  17. Tabitha

    This book sounds like something I’ll love, I have no idea how I hadn’t heard of it until now. I’m a sucker for books that deal with realistic situations.
    Great review!

  18. Michelle @ Book Briefs

    This is the first I have heard of this book. It looks really interesting and I really like the title.

    I have been liking realistic books more and more this year. Flashbacks are hit or miss for me. Sometimes I love them and sometimes I feel like they overpower the book, so I will have to see about that.

    Thanks for the great review Giselle!

  19. Cass

    After seeing this on your blog I contacted the publisher and author, and being outside of Canada its next to IMPOSSIBLE to get my hands on this! However since Billie Livingston is a true sweetheart she took care of it for me and my copy will arrive this week! So excited!