Saturday, June 16, 2012

Book Review: Struck by Jennifer Bosworth

Mia Price is a lightning addict. She’s survived countless strikes, but her craving to connect to the energy in storms endangers her life and the lives of those around her.

Los Angeles, where lightning rarely strikes, is one of the few places Mia feels safe from her addiction. But when an earthquake devastates the city, her haven is transformed into a minefield of chaos and danger. The beaches become massive tent cities. Downtown is a crumbling wasteland, where a traveling party moves to a different empty building each night, the revelers drawn to the destruction by a force they cannot deny. Two warring cults rise to power, and both see Mia as the key to their opposing doomsday prophecies. They believe she has a connection to the freak electrical storm that caused the quake, and to the far more devastating storm that is yet to come.

Mia wants to trust the enigmatic and alluring Jeremy when he promises to protect her, but she fears he isn’t who he claims to be. In the end, the passion and power that brought them together could be their downfall. When the final disaster strikes, Mia must risk unleashing the full horror of her strength to save the people she loves, or lose everything.

The setting and world-building of STRUCK, screenwriter Jennifer Bosworth’s fiction debut, was both my favorite and least-favorite aspect of the novel.  I live in LA, and I’m already terrified of earthquakes…seriously, Jennifer Bosworth, do you have to make it worse?!  Bosworth’s world-building is so successful because she clearly knows LA well, and she creates a very believable portrait of the city after a devastating earthquake—I can definitely see downtown LA as the Waste, a dangerous wasteland that’s also the center of a mysterious, dark partying movement.  And Venice Beach is the perfect place for both Tentville, home of those displaced by the earthquake, and Prophet’s stronghold.  Bosworth refers not only to general areas of Los Angeles but specific streets, neighborhoods, and landmarks, which made the book particularly fun for me as I recognized those places.

I also loved Bosworth’s dark, vibrant, and very cinematic imagery throughout the novel—there was one image involving the world cracking open like an egg that was just stunning in context.   The main characters were intriguing and likable.  I hope that if there’s a sequel, Bosworth reveals more about the past of mysterious love-interest Jeremy—I’d love to know more about his background, though I’m not sure it would have fit into this novel.  I do admit to becoming irritated with Mia’s mother—at many points I just wanted to reach into the book and shake her and tell her to snap out of it!  I do understand why she acted as she did, though, and her behavior was essential to the plot.

If you’ve read any reviews of STRUCK, you’ve probably noticed there’s a lot of discussion about religion in the novel.  As someone with a completely non-religious background, I wasn’t sure how I’d react to this aspect of the novel.  Most of the cult aspects didn’t bother me at all—I felt this was more a portrayal of one power-hungry individual who CLAIMED to hear God for his own benefit, rather than an actual statement about God or any one religion.  However, there was also a lot of religious imagery and references to the Bible, especially the Book of Revelations and Christ and the Apostles, throughout the book, and that was a bit thornier for me.  I’m not sure how accurate the Revelations references were, but I do find that stuff fascinating, the same way I’m fascinated by mythology and folklore.  However, with Prophet’s twelve Apostles and the suggestion that Mia might be intended as a martyr to die for their cause, I became a little uncomfortable. I think maybe I’ve just endured enough Christ-on-the-cross metaphors in high school and college English classes, and I don’t really want to think about that any more than I have to!

Plot-wise, there was a lot going on in STRUCK—Mia’s addiction to lightning, her mysterious stalker/savior Jeremy, the two opposing cult-like groups with their doomsday prophecies, and the disastrous earthquake and its social consequences.  While all of these plot threads came together by the end, it was a LOT, and at times I became overwhelmed and wanted to put the book down for a while.  However, I tend to prefer quieter, character-driven stories rather than cinematic, action-packed ones, so other readers may enjoy the plot more than I did.  I also wished we’d learned more about the roots of Mia’s lightning addiction—I would have loved a flashback to the first time she was struck, for instance, and more about how and when she realized the lightning was seeking her out.

Overall, STRUCK was definitely worth the read and left me with a lot to think about!

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