Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors by Michele Young-Stone : A

Title: The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors
Author: Michele Young-Stone
Genre: Realistic Fiction (YA)
Publication: April 13th, 2010 by Shaye Areheart Books
Pages: 384
Ages: 14+
Grade: A

Damaged people inhabit this debut novel: people who have been struck by lightning as well as those who have lost loved ones from death, divorce, drinking, or duplicity. Young-Stone tells parallel stories that hurdle storm after storm headlong into one another.

One follows the bullied Buckley R. Pitank, who watches as his beloved mother's life is buffeted by her mean-spirited mother and a fraud of an evangelical preacher. Just when she escapes and finds love, and Buckley sees the possibility of happiness, she is fatally struck by lightning.

The other is the story of Becca Burke, a lightning strike survivor whose drunk mother and philandering father have a hard time believing that she has been repeatedly hit by lightning. As Buckley and Becca grow up, Buckley writes The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors, excerpts of which begin each chapter, and Becca becomes a painter. What happens when they do finally meet is inevitable.

Young-Stone is a very fine writer who has created a host of endearing losers—young, old, literate, and simple, all full of longing. What she does best is portray the incredulousness of the unlucky.

General: Let me begin by saying, this book turned out to be not at all what I expected, but I still loved it. I was amazed to learn that Michele Young-Stone herself, the author, was struck by lightning. It's an interesting novel for a long list of reasons, but this makes it all the more interesting.

No summary can even come close to capturing the great depth of this novel. The book has so many layers of pain and joy and energy and emotion that no piece of writing can even begin to describe it; I guess you just have to read it for yourself. There is also such an enormous cast of characters and an extensive plot, it too is impossible to summarize in a mere few sentences.

I immediately fell in love with Michele Young-Stone's style of writing. The plot was extraordinarily well-thought-out, and the characters, every single one of them, were thoroughly developed and honest. As you read her book, Young-Stone not only tells you the story, she introduces you into a whole new world. I felt like I just floated right through this book as I read, just drifting into the storyline peacefully and dreamily. Once I started, I felt no need to stop. There was no repetition, no "being bored with it". It's a refreshing experience to read a debut author who has true talent; and it's an even more refreshing experience to read an author like Michele Young-Stone who seems to be too good for the word "talented".

Characters:  The book includes a crazy amount of characters, but it mostly revolves around two young people, Becca and Buckley. In the beginning of the story, the two don't know each other, but both have had their lives turned around by the trauma of the natural phenomenon of a lightning strike. In addition to this trauma, they each have their own traumas at home. Becca has a sad, alcoholic mother and a cheating father. Buckley lives with his loving but broken mother. It's truly an experience to read about these characters and to learn about them and get to know them. There's so much pain in the novel and it becomes easy to sympathize with and feel sorry for the characters. Becca feels as though she's forced to "walk on eggshells" in her own home, and Buckley is afraid to be happy because he fears bad things will happen if he does because of the pain he's experienced in his early life.

Plot: I'll be truthful. After all this gushing about the novel, I do have a few small complaints. The beginning of the book moves very slowly. It takes a LONG TIME for the plot to fully develop. Because of this, many readers might lose interest before the plot even fully develops. There's such an enormous cast of characters, it can get a little confusing; and though very skillfully written, there are so many twists and turns in the plot to remember and think about that, as the reader, you can get to feeling like the book's skipping around. But if you give it time, the book evolves into a deep, enthralling, fascinating, FABULOUS book.


Plot: 18/20
Characters: 19/20
Ending: 18/20
Cover: 16/20
Style: 20/20
Overall: 91/100

Grade: A



I LOVED this book, great review. I really loved how the minor characters often ended up having so much significance, it was incredible how well thought out it was.

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