Constantine, Alysia. Luckmonkey. Interlude Press. 2021. PB. $16.99. 254 p. 9781945053993.
T, Vas, Kohl and Peebo are squatters and in a punk band called the Dispossessed (not T’s idea), and the initiators of a social experiment intended to combat the destructive nature of consumerism. When their credo is threatened by a fifth member, Twee, who brings a (lucky? unlucky?) wind-up monkey toy into the mix and violates the tenets of their civic actions, things begin to unravel.
If ever there was a group of rag tag characters, these would qualify. Queer, trans, brown, first-generation, from various socioeconomic backgrounds, these characters will resonate strongly with some, and seem utterly alien to others. The diverse representation of these characters is portrayed sensitively and credibly, with their various identities sometimes being a large part of their lives, and other times existing without mention. Although we get a little bit of background information on them, their pasts aren’t as important as the ways they’ve chosen to align their present, and so the focus is on their current lives and choices. The dynamic of this group is both complicated and instantly readable in the way the characters interact with each other, and that clarity is a compliment to Constantine, who has a keen sense of the way individuals play off each other. Readers will have an immediate sense of the tensions and the comfort level between these characters.
There are a lot of choices to be made in this story, large and small. Would you choose to live a life with the least negative impact on the world and others, or would you choose to live comfortably? Are those choices mutually exclusive? Which relationships do we choose to preserve and which do we choose to abandon? Are there choices which seem inevitable, and others which we seek out? When opportunities arrive, does embracing that change happen at the expense of those currently in your life? The drive to answer those questions builds throughout, leading to an eventual understanding of the philosophy which informs their political resistance and their daily existence.
This book is a slow burn, and the ideas being explored are profound without a hint of pretention. It may be a challenging read for young adult readers, though they may relate deeply to some of these characters in a way that adult readers may not. Alysia Constantine is the author of three previous novels: Sweet, Short Stuff, and Olympia Knife.
Nadia M Sahi