The Chain Letter

The Chain Letter

2.0 4
by Julie Schumacher

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Livvie isn’t superstitious like her best friend, Joyce, who thinks everything is bad luck. So Livvie isn’t worried about tearing up the chain letter and throwing it away–until she’s humiliated in gym class, falls down her back stairs, and gets invited to Thanksgiving dinner at Peter Finch’s house. Peter’s dad has crooked


Livvie isn’t superstitious like her best friend, Joyce, who thinks everything is bad luck. So Livvie isn’t worried about tearing up the chain letter and throwing it away–until she’s humiliated in gym class, falls down her back stairs, and gets invited to Thanksgiving dinner at Peter Finch’s house. Peter’s dad has crooked teeth, a plastic wonderland in his front yard, and some kind of secret up in his study. There is no way Livvie wants Phil Finch to date her mom.

But it’s hard work keeping their families apart–especially when Livvie is assigned to work on the sixth-grade snow maze project with Peter. Clearly, Joyce was right: breaking the chain was a huge mistake. And the only way to set things straight is to find out who sent the letter in the first place. . . .

Rich in humor and suspense, Julie Schumacher’s absorbing novel is about friendship, choices, and the kind of luck that really matters.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In a starred review, PW said this slice-of-life novel, tracing the string of bad luck that follows a 12-year-old after she tears up a chain letter, "features a cast of well-defined, slightly quirky characters." Ages 9-12. (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Chain, chain, chain—a chain of fools! This is exactly why sixth-grader, Livvie, threw away her chain letters without answering them back—they were foolish. And she knew it. Livvie claimed she wasn't superstitious. Since that day in small town Minnesota, Livvie has been cursed. One of her biggest obstacles deals with her so-called geeky and gifted friend, Peter. Peter's dad, Phil Finch, is strange and wants to date Livvie's mom. He even invites them over for dinner on Thanksgiving. A few weeks after, Livvie ends up breaking her toe and has to depend on Mr. Finch for transportation from school and help on the school project of building a maze. Joyce, Livvie's best friend and school-project partner, comes down with mononucleosis, so Livvie gets assigned a new partner from another school—Peter. What is a girl to do? How will fun and likeable Livvie survive her circumstance and the school project? Why is her mother in Arizona? To answer these, you will have to read this entertaining story involving superstition, friendship, romance, and down-to-earth good fun. 2005, Delacorte Press, Ages 10 up.
—Kelly Grebinoski
School Library Journal
Gr 5-7-Twelve-year-old Livvie begins a cold St. Paul, MN, winter by throwing away a chain letter, having learned from her mother and experience that it can be more trouble than it's worth. Her superstitious friend, Joyce, claims that this act has brought a series of unfortunate events to their lives, including Livvie's classroom humiliations and broken toe, and Joyce's mononucleosis. Continuous, fluid descriptions of slapstick events and interesting issues of family and friendship will keep readers turning the pages as they begin to know and care about this likable protagonist. Lots of attention is given to her days in school and her growing awareness of luck, serendipity, and the power to make important choices. One of Livvie's concerns is the prospect of her mother dating Phil, who is her friend Peter's widowed, "weird" father. Readers will feel chilled to the bone as Livvie and Peter encounter a man who is stalking Phil on a sub-zero evening, and they will appreciate the story's suspense, humor, and many examples of fine prose.-Laura Scott, Farmington Community Library, MI Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Do we make our own luck, good or bad? A serious question underlies this entertaining friendship story. When Livvie and Joyce don't follow the explicit instructions of the chain letter they each receive, a string of bad luck follows, culminating in a suspenseful episode inside a gigantic snow labyrinth constructed by their fellow St. Paul, Minn., sixth-graders. The strength of the friendship between superstitious, obsessive Joyce and pragmatic, somewhat impulsive Livvie is clear. Quirky and sympathetic adults support the two girls without taking away from the sixth-grade focus. A stalker and a forbidden room provide mystery; family issues-Livvie doesn't want her mom dating her friend Peter's dad-form an important subplot. Winter in St. Paul is convincingly cold. There is much humor in the details, especially in the description of Peter's dad's car, first decorated with doll heads and later with a gigantic bird in a cage. A lively, enjoyable read. (Fiction. 9-12)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sold by:
Random House
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Livvie and Joyce got the chain letters in November. They didn't know who had sent them. Dear friend, the letters started. This chain letter has not been broken for fifteen years.

"Right," Livvie said. "Who do they think they're kidding?"

Joyce was sitting at the kitchen table at Livvie's house, copying the letter onto notebook paper. Her handwriting was short and square, as if every word had been squashed. "The only other chain letters I've ever gotten have been on e-mail," she said. "But a girl I met at camp last summer told me those aren't as powerful. You're supposed to write every single copy by hand. Otherwise it's bad luck."

"It's bad luck just to get a chain letter," Livvie said. "They're a waste of time. Besides, you think everything is bad luck." She opened the refrigerator. She wanted something sweet and hot--maybe a warm brownie with hot fudge and nuts and whipped cream--but her mother had some unexplainable bias against chocolate. Livvie couldn't remember what it was.

"I don't think everything is bad luck," Joyce said. "Just some things."

"Black cats," Livvie said, staring into the refrigerator. "Ladders. The number thirteen. Opening an umbrella indoors."

"And mice," Joyce said. "Mice are bad luck. Most people don't know that." She tore another piece of paper out of her notebook. "Also worms when it isn't raining. When it's raining I think they're all right."

"It's weird that we both got these letters on the same day," Livvie said. They had walked home from school together, stopping first at Joyce's house, where the mail carrier had been stuffing the metal box full of catalogs and bills. Joyce had found her letter in the middle of the stack and brought it with her. A second, identical letter had been waiting for Livvie, at Livvie's house.

"I wonder why they're typed--and not signed," Joyce said. She finished her sixth handwritten copy and began on the seventh. "Who do you think they're from?"

Lazily and without enthusiasm, Livvie looked at her envelope. The postmark was blurry, and there was no return address. "It looks like somebody dropped mine in a snowbank." She looked over Joyce's shoulder. "I hate the way these letters always try to make you feel guilty. Don't break the chain! This letter began one hundred thousand years ago when it was scratched into stone by cavemen! You will be a very bad, bad person if you don't send it to all your friends!"

"Better to send it to your friends than bring all that bad luck onto yourself," Joyce said. "I'm almost finished. Only three left." She had taken off her glasses, and now she was leaning so close to the table that the tip of her nose almost touched the letter.

"Well, hurry up," Livvie said. "I'm hungry, and there's nothing good to eat around here." Livvie's mother wouldn't get home from work for another hour and a half. She was a physical therapist and worked with disabled kids, and she didn't have a lot of sympathy for people who complained about a lack of snack food. "I'm reminded every day," she told Livvie at least once a week, "how incredibly fortunate both of us are."

"When are you going to copy yours?" Joyce asked. "I think you really are supposed to do it the same day you get the letter."

"No way," Livvie said. The few times she had been suckered into taking part in a chain letter, she had been told that she would soon be receiving dollar bills in the mail. First a few, trickling in, and then bucketsful! Hundreds! She would be rich! But all she got after forwarding her letters were dirty looks from some of the people she had included in the chain. Her mother, for example. "Take my name off that list," her mother had told her. "I did my time on those horrid things when I was your age. I'm not going to answer them anymore."

Well, Livvie wasn't going to answer them anymore, either--especially if they were supposed to be so much work. "Watch this," she said. When Joyce looked up, Livvie tore her chain letter in half and threw the pieces in the trash beneath the sink.

Joyce stopped scribbling and put on her glasses, as if she couldn't believe what she was seeing. "That's definitely bad luck. Very definitely, Livvie. That's very bad."

"Sure. Whatever. I guess I'm cursed." Livvie studied her friend. It was hard sometimes to know whether to look at the right side of Joyce's face or at the left. Joyce had mismatched eyes: One was bright blue, the other brown. She was like two people combined into one. "There's no one I could have sent it to, anyway," Livvie said. "I can't send it to you or to my mother, and I don't want to send it to anyone at school."

"What about Peter? He likes you."

Livvie scowled. "He doesn't like me like that. Besides, Peter wouldn't answer a chain letter." Livvie had known Peter since they were very small. Livvie's mother and Peter's father were both single parents and had been in a babysitting group together. When Livvie was four, she had spent two afternoons a week at Peter's house.

"Just don't blame me when the lousy luck starts coming your way," Joyce said in a singsong. She licked the envelopes and stamped them with Livvie's mother's stamps, then tapped them against the tabletop to straighten them.

Joyce's confidence made Livvie nervous. "How about we just act like we got the one letter and you answered it for both of us?" she asked.

"Nothing doing."

"Fine, then. I don't care." Livvie wiped the eraser crumbs off the table. The letter wasn't really part of a chain anyway. It didn't have any power. It was just a piece of paper delivered to an address in the middle of St. Paul, Minnesota, the city itself just a star on a map. "I'm not superstitious. So I'm not going to worry about it," she said.

From the Hardcover edition.

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