Chris Colfer’s Struck by Lightning Review
Chris Colfer strikes the literary world again with his second novel this year, Struck by Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal. Based on the screenplay Colfer wrote and filmed last summer, he adapts the high school drama into a journal kept by story’s protagonist Carson Phillips. In an attempt to highlight his credentials as an aspiring journalist, Phillips blackmails his fellow classmates to gain submissions for a literary journal he creates. On top of the pressure high school presents he also deals with a less than perfect family situation at home employing his cutting sarcasm and wit to keep life from getting the best of his ambitious spirit.
As a 22 year old sitting at my computer at 3:13 am writing a review of another 22 year old’s book, I cannot help but think what four years of college and my dedicated free time to writing are getting me. I am not traveling around to sign copies of my second novel nor am I producing and writing movies. While reading this book, I kept pushing those thoughts away trying to focus on the words in front of me. I can sit in awe of Chris Colfer everyday as I witness him taking over the world, but as he states in his novel, “Sometimes I think the worst thing you can do to someone is idolize them or make them out to be anything else but human; then you’re only giving them room to disappoint you.” Well, that shut my mind up. Until, of course, I realized another 22 year old made me change my perspective on how I look at success in celebrity culture. I will say that while I do not foresee Colfer taking any acts to disappoint me, I do think it highlights some trepidation a young author takes releasing their work into the world hanging on the coattails of much deserved recent success. It may seem that success waits at every corner for some people. However, it takes a great amount of perseverance to meet it.
I opened Colfer’s second book with some trepidation. I was blown away by the imaginative creation The Land of Stories exhibited, but I was not sure if transitioning to the young adult genre would prove as successful. Even with early film festival screenings outlining a stellar, smart-witted script, I still wondered how the screenplay would transfer to a novel. These concerns were kept at bay as I found myself slyly smiling and openly laughing at the well-placed one-liners and ingenious banter throughout the book. The text was delivered very tongue-in-cheek and the author’s style of creating sympathy for distasteful yet deserving characters blossomed as the main character uncovered their personal backstories. Carson Phillip’s life is no cakewalk, but I never felt the sense that Colfer cuts him any slack for the way he behaves. Carson’s fully accepting of his attitude and does not pity himself nor allows the crapshoot of life to deter him. Along with the metaphors and literary allusions, the narrative left me feeling inspired and even a bit self-satisfied when I chuckled at a Grapes of Wrath reference in one chapter and a Moby Dick satire in another.
Be warned though, the story isn’t all punchy lines and rampant campaigns to blackmail the student body. The interactions with Carson’s grandmother brought about a few moments of somber appreciation for the escape to a relationship that is as challenging as it is rewarding.
The social analysis of the high school hallway and ranking were laughable and relatable, even to someone who went to a private school. The segregation of the characters is nothing new, but the club descriptions were certainly a welcomed approach to classifying the types of people that exist in the after school world. Yes, I’ll openly admit I was one of “those students” on the FBLA leadership board for four consecutive years. And while I didn’t fit into the mold created by Colfer, the rest of the executive board certainly did.
The only gripe I have with the text concerns the over plugging of contemporary references, including one to his current show Glee. This week in the news alone the Gaza Strip and the Justin Beiber/ Selena Gomez’s relationship are two top news stories and both gain a line, or in the Beib’s case, an entire short story about them. I anticipate The Land of Stories will remain on the shelves as a classic tale, but this book will swiftly become dated as Grindr and, with some hope, Ke$ha fall off the grid.
If you want a story that will have you feeling the same fist in the air excitement as the scene where Todd Anderson stands on his desk addressing John Keating, “Oh Captain, my captain” pick up this book and get behind Carson Phillips. He is doing the work we all wish we could wake up each day and accomplish.
I know I’ll be waiting to see Colfer and the all-star cast in the film’s theater release on January 13th.