A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Protagonist Carson is very well read and quite superior about it. One of the book's running jokes involves identifying the literary works that one of the characters plagiarizes, including Moby-Dick and A Tale of Two Cities. He also includes a lot of mathematical equations.
While there's plenty of snarky cynicism and some messages about the futility of striving, there are also positive messages about seeing things from other people's viewpoints and having some compassion for what they're dealing with.
Positive Role Models
Carson isn't always the most laudable character when it comes to single-minded pursuit of his goals, to the exclusion of the effects on anyone else. But his love for his grandmother and his relentless determination to be what he ought to be, which doesn't exist in his hometown, are appealing and positive. Ditto his refusal to be beaten down by peer pressure. His growing ability to be kind and even form friendships is real but not overdone.
Sex, Romance & Nudity
As Carson discovers, various characters are having sex with one another in sometimes-unlikely combinations that would get them in big trouble if they were discovered, which makes them easy blackmail fodder. The moments of discovery are often hilarious, crude, and slightly grotesque. Carson himself doesn't see much point in sex, since he has yet to see a positive example of a sexual relationship.
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It's a rare page that doesn't have "s--t," "f--k," "ass," etc., and variations on the same.
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Products & Purchases
Chris Colfer based the book on his own screenplay for the 2013 movie Struck by Lightning. The book includes a collection of stills from the movie, and the cover promotes the film. The book itself also includes many references to commercial products and pop icons, from Pepto-Bismol to The Hunger Games to Adele to Glee, but in context it's more about snide humor or scene-setting than product placement.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Carson's mother is perpetually wasted on alcohol and prescription drugs, which is both comic and horrific at different moments but never an inducement to try the lifestyle. One of the teens is a serious stoner, which is sometimes played for laughs. A discussion of kids being overmedicated for ADD leads to an unwelcome discovery.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Struck by Lightning is a YA novel by Glee's Chris Colfer, based on his screenplay for the January 2013 film in which he also stars. It's hilarious, brilliantly satirical, and tragicomically dark as it nails the pure toxicity of high-school culture in a dead-end small town. Those looking for the sweetness and innocent charm of Colfer's middle-grade novel, The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell, should be forewarned that Struck is laced with profanity ("s--t," "f--k," "ass," and more); plus, various characters have sex with other characters, and the adults are, almost without exception, awful people. There's also drinking and teen drug use.
Is It Any Good?
TV star and bestselling middle-grade author Chris Colfer adds to his stature as a multidimensional artist with the snarky, sardonic, profane, poignant STRUCK BY LIGHTNING. The novel brilliantly evokes the sense of being trapped in the wrong place when you know the right place is just within reach. While it cleverly mocks the cultural brain death of Carson's hometown and the toxic nastiness of high school culture, it also raises thought-provoking issues and imparts insights as its hero grows reluctantly wiser.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.