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Review: The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors by Michelle Young-Stone

Review: The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors by Michelle Young-Stone post image

Title: The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors
Author: Michele Young-Stone
Genre: Fiction
Year: 2010
Acquired: An eBook from Net Galley for my nook.
Rating: ★★★½☆

One Sentence Summary: Parallel stories look at people damaged directly or indirectly by lightning.

One Sentence Review: The book flips between competing storylines with ease and lets every character, however small, have a space and story in the novel.

Why I Read It: I wanted to experiment with using Net Galley, and remembered a good review of this book from Rebecca (The Book Lady’s Blog). I also love books with complicated narratives, so the dual structure was interesting.

Long Review: The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors was the first book I downloaded and read on my nook. I got the book from Net Galley, an online service where you can request egalleys from publishers for review. I used Adobe Digital Editions, which is a good way to manage an online library and upload books to an eReader.

THFLSS is a story with three threads. The first is Becca, an 8-year-old girl who is struck by lightning. However, her family doesn’t believe her, so she grows up feeling different and alienated.

The second is Buckley, a bullied 13-year-old who lives at home with his obese but loving mother and abusive grandmother. His life changes when a controlling reverend comes into his life and marries his mother. Eventually, his life is impacted by lightning too.

The third thread includes excerpts from a book called The Handbook for Lighting Strike Survivors, which is exactly what it sounds like — a book that talks about how to survive a lightning strike. These sections are put in between the scenes of Becca and Buckley growing up. The book shifts in time and perspectives, but is always moving towards an inevitable moment when all the threads will come together.

While I loved the shifting narratives and the momentum they gave the book, they were sometimes a challenge on the nook. I started reading the book while exercising, which didn’t give me the chance to know much of what is going on. When the books shifted time and character, it was sometimes tricky to know what was happening. I think it would have been more clear if I’d read it in paperback (or I would have at least been able to back up easily to get my bearings).

But that’s really a comment on the format, not the book itself. There were many, many things I enjoyed about this book.

One thing that works really effectively is the lightning itself. The premise has the chance to be cheesy, but I think it works because the book really isn’t about the lightning. It’s about how moments can ripple out and cause damage, even when the damage can’t be seen. Lightning just provides the perfect example of this phenomenon – quick, often lethal, and not at all understood.

Another thing I loved about this book is the way that every character has a story. Although Becca and Buckley are the main characters, everyone from Becca’s childhood crush to Buckley’s step-dad’s son get attention and a back-story. That’s another quality I love in good books.

If enjoy books with multiple narratives and characters, plots that look at the ongoing implications of a single moment, and characters with deep backstories and complicated relationships, then I think you’d enjoy this book.

Other Reviews: The Book Lady’s Blog | Booking Mama | S. Krishna’s Books | Fizzy Thoughts |

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • softdrink July 29, 2010, 8:26 am

    I’m beginning to realize that certain books just don’t work well on the nook. White is for Witching was a big fat fail. If I’m at all confused by the story or format, the nook seems to make it even harder to comprehend.

    • Kim August 1, 2010, 11:16 am

      softdrink: I agree. I think there’s something about not having a physical copy of the book that makes it harder in some books. I’m not sure if it’s that it’s hard to flip back and check thing or what, but I’ve noticed it too.

  • Trisha July 29, 2010, 9:15 am

    When I first read the synopsis of this book, I did wonder if it would be a bunch of cheese. Glad to hear it isn’t.

    • Kim August 1, 2010, 11:18 am

      Trisha: I didn’t think the lightning was cheesy. After I thought about it, I think it’s just supposed to represent disaster of some kind. Lightning just makes a good one because it’s so unexpected and inexplicable that it’s almost the perfect disaster to use. The book is really more about what does trauma or the inexplicable do to people and how people are connected to each other.

  • Jennifer July 29, 2010, 9:26 am

    I like what you said about how this book isn’t really just about lightning but uses lightning to show how one moment, one event can cause ripples. That is an interesting theme and I think that using different narratives to explore that is probably really effective. I’ll keep my eye out for this one in the future.

    • Kim August 1, 2010, 11:19 am

      Jennifer: Good! I do like the way the multiple narratives strung together. It’s so much fun to read wondering how it’s going to come together, and then for it to come together in a way you didn’t expect. This book did that really well.

  • bermudaonion (Kathy) July 29, 2010, 9:41 am

    I know what you mean – I’ve found some books just don’t work as well in the e-format as others. This book still sounds good to me!

    • Kim August 1, 2010, 11:20 am

      bermudaonion: I’ve only read a few books on the nook so far, and I do think there is some quality that makes certain books work better than others. I’m not sure quite what it is yet though. But this book is good. I hope you get a chance to read it!

  • Esme July 29, 2010, 10:48 am

    You are not thinking of experimenting are you?

    • Kim August 1, 2010, 11:21 am

      Esme: With the nook? Probably 🙂 With lighting? Not so much!

  • Rebecca @ The Book Lady's Blog July 29, 2010, 10:48 am

    Glad you liked the book, but I’m bummed that the e-format negatively affected your reading experience. I don’t have an e-reader yet (holding out for a later generation iPad), but it is interesting to think about the kinds of books that will and won’t work for the reading experience.

    • Kim August 1, 2010, 11:22 am

      Rebecca: I’m a little bummed too, but I think it’s a book I’ll eventually come back to and read over again because I liked so many things about it. I’d love an iPad, but I’m not sure I could read on the blacklit screen for any length of time. They’re beautiful though!

  • Andi July 29, 2010, 1:34 pm

    I think I’d really like this one. I’m glad it doesn’t take a foray into cheese.

    I found the format is off on my Nook but only the e-books I’ve gotten from NetGalley. Did yours do something similar? Odd linebreaks and such? I think it’s because they’re PDF and not epub format. AT least my copy of Our Tragic Universe is weirdly formatted.

    • Kim August 1, 2010, 11:23 am

      Andi: Yes, I did notice the would break in odd places, especially when I made the text really big. I do think it’s the PDF — it doesn’t adjust as well as a book actually formatted like epub. That did bug me too much, but I did notice it.

  • Michele Young-Stone July 29, 2010, 1:54 pm

    Thanks so much for reviewing my book! If you’d like to do a give-away for a signed copy of the hardback, I would love to mail one to one of your readers. Thanks again!!

    • Kim August 1, 2010, 11:24 am

      Michelle: Thank you for reading my review — I appreciate it!

  • Jenny July 29, 2010, 5:00 pm

    Aha! See, this just reinforces my notion of reading only nonfiction on the ereader I might someday buy if I am ever not poor. I wouldn’t need to flip to the end to see how things would come out, and I wouldn’t have to worry about failing to engage with a story.

    • Kim August 1, 2010, 11:26 am

      Jenny: I wonder if the not engaging fully part was, at least for me, also because of where I was reading the book — at the gym. It’s hard to focus and really get into something in that situation, but this book still managed to suck me in.

      I’ve read a couple nonfiction books on my nook so far, and those seem to work well for me as long as I’m really paying attention to the arguments. One I read had a lot of graphs and charts, and those were hard on an ereader.

  • Amy July 29, 2010, 5:33 pm

    Hooray! Another lover of this book! 😀 I loved, loved, loved it.

    • Kim August 1, 2010, 11:27 am

      Amy: I’m glad! I liked it a lot too.

  • Iris July 30, 2010, 1:50 am

    This sounds lovely. I have heard so many good things about this book.

    I have yet to find out if some books work better in ebook format than other, it seems logical that it would though.

    • Kim August 1, 2010, 11:28 am

      Iris: I think there are certain books that work better that others, but I haven’t been able to put my finger on just what it is. But I’m sure it’s the same way that some books work better in the summer versus the winter — timing and situations can make a big difference in how a book works for me too.

  • Gwen July 30, 2010, 8:48 pm

    I have this on my iPod, but just haven’t gotten to it. Reading your review makes me think that I should have gotten a hardcopy.

    • Kim August 1, 2010, 11:29 am

      Gwen: I’ve never read a book on an iPod, I’m curious how that would work. I hope you enjoy it!

  • Misha Mathew July 30, 2010, 9:31 pm

    I would love to read this book!Thanks for the review
    I just started my own blog. Please stop by if you can. Thank you


  • Nymeth July 31, 2010, 3:17 am

    I had never considered how the inability to flip back and check something would affect my reading experience, but yours is the second review I read that mentions that this is a huge downside of e-readers – and thinking about it I can see how it would be. But that aside, the book does sound like a good one.

    • Kim August 1, 2010, 11:30 am

      Nymeth: Flipping back wasn’t something I thought about until it happened. It’s not hard to go back if you need too — the nook has a menu where you can go to a chapter or a page, but it’s a little more clumsy that just flipping back in the pages. I didn’t realize how much I do that until it became inconvenient not to be able to.

  • Lisa August 1, 2010, 8:05 pm

    I do like books with multiply narratives–and I have heard great things about this one. Guess I’ll have to finally add it to the wish list.

    • Kim August 3, 2010, 6:35 pm

      Lisa: I hope you do. I liked the way the narratives in this were related, but didn’t come together for quite awhile. It kept me trying to predict what would happen.