This coming-of-age tale set in Cape Cod includes a touch of mystery for an original take on loneliness, broken families, and teenage romance.
Seventeen-year-old narrator Rachel Ferguson is trying to get struck by lightning. Her ethereal mother, Naomi, has led a lightning strike survivors’ group for as long as she can remember, and Rachel has been perpetually confined to the sidelines. Bruised by a whirlwind romance with duplicitous new arrival Reed, Rachel seeks comfort in her best friends—Serena, one of the few African-Americans in their small town and the only major character of color, and trainee EMT Jay, who has Asperger’s. A one-off encounter with high school jock Sawyer alienates Serena, who is on the cheerleading team with Sawyer’s ex, even as Rachel’s relationship with Jay takes a surprising turn. Meanwhile, ghosts from Naomi’s past begin to circle, and Rachel’s suspicions are aroused when she reads a box of love letters Naomi exchanged with her father, who died before she was born. The affecting sadness of the narrative voice is offset by frequent resorts to cliché, but themes of social isolation and identity are addressed with delicacy and poise, the dialogue sparkling with lightly dusted humor. The final great reveal feels anticlimactic, the early darkness and mystery slipping away too easily.
While not following through on the promise of the opening chapters, this is an intriguing story and a creative take on the genre. (Fiction. 14-18)