Friday, December 13, 2013

Review: When Lightning Strikes by Meg Cabot

Title: When Lightning Strikes
Author: Meg Cabot {writing as Jenny Carroll}
Publication Date: September 2010 {this edition}
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Series: Vanished - previously 1-800-Where-R-You {Book 1}
Source & Format: Library; paperback
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
A gift…or a curse?
Jessica Mastriani has never liked attention. All she wants is to make it to high school graduation like any ordinary girl. But when Jess is struck by lightning, she becomes anything but ordinary: suddenly she has the ability to locate missing children.
Now Jess is getting noticed in all the wrong ways and by all the wrong people. The media is obsessed with her and her story. The FBI is tapping her phone. And what’s going on with sexy senior Rob? Soon Jess learns the hard way that not everyone who is lost wants to be found….
With no one to trust, it's up to Jess to decide what to do with her new power—before it’s decided for her.

I have been a huge fan of Meg Cabot ever since The Princess Diaries, and her books have a major presence on my shelves. I didn't know about her 1-800-Where-R-You series (recently renamed Vanished), and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it! 


With Jess, it's all about attitude. Right off the bat, her giant personality shines through as she thumbs her nose at the same government entity that is making her write the statement about her gift that becomes the first novel in the series. I really enjoyed these first few pages because they are undiluted Jess: her spunky personality and her gentleness show through at once. A guy insults Jess's best friend? She punches him in the face. See?

It's this same combination of gruff exterior and good heart that really got to me. She is the girl who will go around scaring the daylights out of the boys when she needs to but will patiently wear homemade matching gingham dresses with her mom (even though her dad has promised her a motorcycle if she does). Jess's personality doesn't change, despite her sudden fame for her gift (I feel she would appreciate the emphasis there) and it's what gets her - well, partly - into the complications of the plot. 


The problem with having a gift like Jess's is that is comes with quite a bit of responsibility and consequences. Although at first, Jess loves having a role in helping lost children find their way home, she soon faces a problem: what if the children don't want to be found

It's an interesting plot twist, especially since the rest of Jess's world is fawning over how fantastic she is, how she is a national hero for finding all of these people. No one really thinks about the consequences of such a gift, and I admit, I wouldn't have either. I found this twist to Jess's paranormal ability believable and it actually struck home as I was reading it. This is a what if that most wouldn't have even considered. 

Jess's problem and the heart of the plot really come to being when Jess agrees to go to a government military base for testing. This part of the book I found the most realistic - sadly - and the most disturbing. This is also the part of the book where Rob became one of my favorite YA heroes. I had a little trouble believing the outcome of this conflict - it didn't quite seem realistic to me, but I'm glad it ended the way it did.


I love Cabot's writing. She has this way of immersing the reader into her world. Jess's spirited first person narration really sealed the deal for me - I only wanted more of her (which is why I'm glad there's two books of this series in my paperback version!). Cabot weaves in pop culture references to set the mood for her characters, and occasionally throws in the good Mulder/Scully reference (this made my day). Her unique and familiar writing style really made this book a pleasure to read.


I loved When Lightning Strikes. It's a fun read with well-developed characters, an interesting plot, and Cabot's famous writing. I am halfway through book 2, Code Name Cassandra, and I can't wait to finish the series!

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