Struck By Lightning by Chris Colfer

Cover via Goodreads.

Cover via Goodreads.

Rating: 2/5 stars.

Struck By Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal by Chris Colfer details Carson Phillips’ struggle to gain admission to the school of his dreams: Northwestern University. He absolutely abhors everyone in his small, narrow-minded town – everyone aside from his ailing grandmother and depressed mom. When he realizes that he needs to create a literary journal to bolster his chances of acceptance, he blackmails various people from myriad social groups to write for him.

I empathized with Carson. Trust me, I did. I don’t live in the most conservative, small-minded town ever, but my area is far from New York City or Los Angeles. My yearning for college stems from my need to experience a different setting. In that respect I connected to Carson; his development in the ending spoke to me as well.

However, overall, I detested Carson. Lately I’ve read books with unlikable characters who are unlikable for no reason – like Carson, they’re not fleshed out or written well. Carson castigates his peers for being immature and shallow and superficial, yet he embodies these characteristics as well. He starts rumors and treats his teachers with no respect. He makes snarky, cocky comments that do not contribute to his welfare or better his situation. Here’s one passage I found unduly offensive:

“Personally, I don’t buy ‘rebellious phases.’ I think they’re just dramatic ways of saying, ‘I have no real problems, so I’m going to dress differently and hurt myself so people think I’m more complex than I really am.’ I’m sorry, you can kiss my a** with your ‘inner turmoil.’

You want to be ‘left alone’? You don’t want to be ‘understood’? Then stop dressing up every day like it’s Halloween, you whiny little b*tch. Get over yourself, get some Zoloft, and stop being a f*cking eyesore to everyone around you.”

What’s ironic about this passage is that Carson himself often complains incessantly. Go figure.

Finally, a lot of the book felt fake. Carson would often randomly start preaching about accepting others or not being judgmental; then, pages later, he would go back to insulting everyone around him. Moments or characters that could have had significant impact or thematic importance were dealt with sparsely and with little detail, like Carson’s decision to take antidepressants or Vicki’s goth personality.

I wouldn’t recommend reading this book. Watch the movie, but don’t waste your money on the book. As other reviewers have stated, this book seems like it was produced solely to supplement the movie. A lot of the dialogue is exactly the same dialogue from the trailers and I could discern how script-like the book was in nature. Hopefully Chris Colfer writes a more relatable or developed story next time; I haven’t been impressed yet, neither by his role on Glee nor his publishing of this book.

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13 Comments

Filed under 2 stars, Book Reviews, Books

13 responses to “Struck By Lightning by Chris Colfer

  1. I must say I agree with every single point you made here, but less…intensely. Carson is very bitter and somewhat irritating, yes. That passage seemed offensive to me as well. And nothing was really developed throughout, where there was a lot of potential for at least some coming-of-age messages. But I’m still holding out for the movie, where I know everything will come to life much better than the book!

    • I am glad you are not blinded by your bias! And I do feel like the movie will be better, because it’ll portray the humor more effectively and it won’t have to worry about Carter’s internal character development.

  2. I have never heard of this book until a couple of weeks ago when I saw a girl my age reading it. The cover looked good so I asked to read the synopsis and then the girl ran away. I was a little bit embarrassed. Now that I read your review I don’t want to read this anymore. I like reading unlikeable characters(like Chelsea Knot from Speechless) the best. They have a certain voice to them and I feel like if they are written by an experienced author they can become likeable characters as they develop but if they are not written well they can be quite annoying… I might still see the movie though 🙂

    • I can’t believe the girl actually ran away! I agree that unlikeable characters are difficult to pull off but it can be done – having the right motives, upbringing, coming of age, etc. can all make unlikeable characters ones that we root for. If you do decide to see the movie please let me know how it is!

      • Yeah, I was kind of confused when that happened. Maybe she was painfully shy? I will probably just rent the movie because Carson may be annoying in the movie also… But the movie will probably be better(there is rarely a time when I say that)!

        • Perhaps, it’s unfortunate because you’re nice and into books! Oh well – and, yes, renting is a good idea… I know, it’s a rarity for the movie to be better, but when the book itself is a byproduct of the movie, it’s bound to happen.

          • I don’t remember ever reading a book that was an adaption of a movie. I have heard of some but never read them due to bad reviews… I guess movies just don’t translate well into books and books just don’t translate well in movies(probably because movies normally leave out things).

            • Agreed – I doubt that there will ever be a book/movie combination that is truly balanced, due to the more in-depth characterization and internal thought process books provide as well as the addition of music and visuals movies have.

  3. Mod

    Really? I absolutely loved the book. Carson’s journey from the snide, sarcastic, snarky kid to the place where he has learned that it is just as important to stop and listen and that others are just as trapped for their own reasons as he is, was very well documented. His drive and focus were blinding him, but he eventually learned to step back and see the ‘present’ instead of always keeping his eyes on the future. Loved this book and would highly recommend reading it so that you can journey with him.
    Will be interested to see how the film pans out.

    • I’m glad that you loved the book! While I found Carson’s transformation too sudden and obvious – as well as improperly developed – I think it’s great that there are others who read the exact same book and enjoyed it. I agree, perhaps I will see the film as well. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. I’m always cautious about novelizations of films because money is usually the reason they’re written, instead of creativity or personal attachment to the story. I’ve read a few, but only because I had already seen a film and wanted more of the story, even if the writing quality is below average. I’ve been following news about Colfer’s other book, The Land of Stories, and yet I didn’t even know the Struck by Lightning book existed until I saw your review, which makes me think that this is simply a rushed novelization meant to promote the film.

    You say that the main character is unlikable for no reason, and perhaps that’s a side effect of Colfer’s quick attempt to write the book. I wonder if that problem is better handled in the film, where his less-admirable traits can be told in a more light-hearted or sympathetic way.

    When you say Carson talks about people complaining when he himself complains, that reminds me of Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye (although, this book is obviously not on the same level). Holden accused others of acting a certain way when he unwittingly acted in a similar fashion. Have you read the Catcher in the Rye?

    • Yeah, one of my friends told me that Colfer stated in an interview that the book was only written to be an accessory with the movie. Most of the individuals I’ve talked to and the reviews I’ve read state that the movie is hilarious and heartwarming, so I suppose it must’ve worked better in that format.

      I enjoyed the Catcher in the Rye! Holden’s plight had much more depth and meaning than that of Carson’s, from my perspective. While their protagonists have some similarities I wouldn’t closely compare the two books as a whole.

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