Review

Struck By Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal

by Chris Colfer

Some people look back on high school with fondness for the memories they created. But Carson Philips just can’t wait to get out of there. With a depressed mother, no father figure, and a grandmother with Alzheimer’s, he has more than enough to deal with. He also has bigger dreams than his small town of Clover can hold. He plans on going to Northwestern, becoming a famous journalist and eventually the editor of The New Yorker. When his guidance counselor suggests he start a literary magazine in order to strengthen his college application, Carson realizes he’ll need submissions from other students. Enlisting the help of his hilarious and quirky friend Malerie, he finds ways to blackmail the most popular students into writing for the magazine. Luckily, everyone has something to hide.

"Whether you feel like at an outcast in your own school or just are a fan of Colfer, this book provides plenty of humor, wit, sarcasm, and in the end, a realization that anyone with dreams can relate to."

Written by New York Times bestselling author and award-winning actor Chris Colfer, STRUCK BY LIGHTNING is a sharply written, hilarious book about navigating high school while feeling like an outcast. Colfer, who plays the witty Kurt on the popular TV show Glee, may have taken a cue from his character, who also initially feels like an outcast in a high school led by cheerleaders and jocks. Like Kurt, Carson delivers his own lines in a clever, but snarky, tone.

The novel touches on all the typical high school stereotypes: the cheerleader/student council president, the jock (they’re obviously dating), the drama kid, the goth and the stoner. However, the book manages to delve beneath their labels and subtly gives us a look into the other characters’ own problems through their literary magazine submissions. Carson realizes there’s a lot more to his fellow classmates than his own perceptions. He even feels sympathy for a few of them after a couple of almost heartfelt conversations, ruined only by his own retorts.

Carson uses defensive humor to show just how much he doesn’t care about what others think and how he is above it all. But through his interactions with his mother and his visits to his grandmother, we see that he truly is sad about the way his life has been. We also see him soften when Malerie, a slow but sweet girl, asks him if they’re friends and he replies, “I think we’re best friends.”

With all of Carson's hardships, the book could easily have just become another portrayal of an angsty teen. Admittedly, Carson’s biting comments can get a little old and repetitive to the point where the reader wants to say, “Ok, I get it.” However, the book manages to move past that and Carson’s character grows from being negative about his life to someone who has hope. Carson eventually recognizes that he shouldn’t let the negativity bring him down. He realizes that life may not always go your way, but that it’s important to have your own dreams and goals. 

As Carson says, “Like a good idea, life comes at you fast. It’s a lot like…lightning.” The book moves fast, as well. It’s so well written that it moves along at a speedy page-turning pace until the surprising ending. Whether you feel like at an outcast in your own school or just are a fan of Colfer, this book provides plenty of humor, wit, sarcasm, and in the end, a realization that anyone with dreams can relate to.

Reviewed by Borana Greku on November 7, 2012

Struck By Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal
by Chris Colfer

  • Publication Date: November 5, 2013
  • Genres: Fiction, Youth Fiction
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0316232939
  • ISBN-13: 9780316232937