Rant and Rave: Struck By Lightning—The Carson Phillips Journal A Novel by Chris Colfer

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Image courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

For some people, high school was a breeze: high grades were easily obtained, many friends were nearby and just a call away, and life was all fine and dandy. On the other hand, most other people believe that their years in high school were the worst years of their lives; some might note that bullying, bad grades and the natural lack of companionship and friendship are factors that affected them deeply enough to say that higher learning might not be worth it. Many literary heroes and heroines have depicted higher learning (or in some cases, high school) from different perspectives like Charlie Miller, Esther Greenwood and Holden Caulfield (the last being undeniably the most influential of all heroes and whose creator paved the way for the other literary gems).

Hoping to follow in those footsteps and doing it quite nicely is Chris Colfer. Colfer is more famously known as Kurt Hummel, the flamboyant soprano who stole the hearts of many “Gleeks” around the world for his award-winning turn in Glee, but these days, Colfer is just breaking new grounds for his career as an author.

His first novel, The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell, made waves in the world of literature as it became a #1 New York Times Bestseller. However, the climax of his writing career happened when he wrote Struck By Lightning; originally written for the screen, Chris adapted it as a novel, and  proved that the dude can seriously write.

Enter Carson Phillips, the hero of the story, and apparently, the most hated guy in Clover High School. Phillips believes that he deserves to get out of the small town of Clover to pursue his studies at the Northwestern College and be the editor of The New Yorker someday. However, like all high school – set novels, the odds are against him, mainly because Carson is an introvert who is sly and will do anything to get his way. As Carson jubilantly sent his application to the college of his dreams, he was informed that he needs to send in a literary magazine to solidify his place in the admissions. Figuring that no one in this ‘godforsaken’ town would submit an entry, he decided to use information against the people he knew and despised to make them submit entries. On paper, the plot seems too thin and clichéd, but Colfer adds a tone that makes the novel fun and humorous to be had.

Along the way, Phillips discovers that the people around him also have problems of their own, and that the personal issues that are disrupting his life, like family and friendship, are creating a dark cloud of negativity that his grandmother and mother deem as ‘dangerous’; throughout the story, this idea is sustained by the mood and actions Carson does, proving that he is a cloud that is floating miserably into space, wanting to get from one place to another.

Chris Colfer made his second novel sincere and heartfelt while delving into the heart of controversial issues like self – harm, drugs and the complacency of the generation of students today.

The best aspect of the story, however, was the direct hit of the title to the tragic yet satisfying end of the novel. The narration of the hero is top-notch, making the reader feel like a live viewer of the events taking place; something like being smack dab in the middle because it is very vivid and the thrill of Colfer’s writing doesn’t drop. It sustains itself well until it reaches another level. The plot of the book is not far-fetched either: a story like this could very much happen in real life although what set it apart is the creativity and (near) genius narration of Colfer.

Struck by Lightning also reaches a certain point of relatability; many passages in the book were written, presumably, to make the reader realize that we all go through the same dilemmas in life, dreams that are being crushed by people we perceive as gullible around us, obstacles and issues that make us question are true purpose and life, and the queries of self – assurance and believing in yourself. Another point needed to be raised is that the story has no hint of hypocrisy whatsoever; some novels like to pretend that the hero is fine whilst dealing with issues, but Colfer makes every aspect of Struck By Lightning raw and emotional, making sure that his points and opinions gets across the reader effectively, and without hesitation or disbelief, it does.

In a way, it’s safe to say that Struck by Lightning was written by Colfer as a reminder to his “fans” and other teenagers all over the world that life will really suck at one point. There will be an instance when life doesn’t want to help you in any way possible, and that is fine; it only means that the only destination to go from “rock bottom” is up. Ironically, Carson Phillips was at the peak of his happiness when life decided to just strike down from the sky.

Daniel Ian Comandante

By Daniel Ian Comandante

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