Review: Struck by Jennifer Bosworth

Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Title: Struck
Author: Jennifer Bosworth
Genre: post-apocalyptic, dystopia, science fiction, young-adult
Series: Untitled series #1
Pages: 382 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: expected May 8 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 3.5/5

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.

This had the potential to rock my socks off: a new twist on the dystopia trend so prevalent in today's YA market (religion versus progress), an intriguing 'hook' for the main character of Mia (tell me more of this 'lightning addict!'), and a post-apocalyptic setting of a toppled and chaotic Los Angeles ("Hell-A") - what could be more intimidating for a struggling seventeen year old? I wanted to love it, and almost almost did before Struck and main character Mia, let the ball drop. Unfortunately the execution falters in delivering the most interesting and promised aspects of the novel; Struck gets a bit too caught up in the religious overtones to the overall detriment of the far-more-original lightning addict part. Less religion, more natural disasters, please! This is a bit of an uneven read; the first-half of the novel is far stronger than the the middle and ending, and by the time it came to turn the final page, I was more than ready to put this down.

Like I said, Struck gets off to a great and original start - it's nearly impossible to not be pulled in and intrigued by Mia's introductory paragraph - and if only that level of uniqueness had continued, this would be a much different review for a much different novel. But enough with what could've been. Mia herself is plucky, determined and cutthroat for her circumstances; no wishy washy bullshit about survival here. With a younger sibling and a mentally incapacitated Mom after the earthquakes, (Katniss, is that you?) Mia's situation is hardly revelatory, nor is her position as head of the family, but she works well in that capacity. Mia will do what is necessary for her and her brother to survive and it's always easy to admire and root for a fighter/survivor. What is less easy to admire about Mia is how completely and totally brainlessly she can and does act during the book. She makes dumb, plot-advancing, obvious decisions that keep her in the dark, goes out of her way to be outside of communication with anyone else, which, consequently, lands her into trouble/danger fairly frequently. 

In this earthquake-rocked future, Mia's constantly caught between two massive cults vying for power and influence after the world ended: the religious Followers of the Prophet and the cryptic and mysterious anti-Prophet "Seekers".  With her mom going one way and her brother going the other, it's easy to understand Mia's motivations for distrusting both powerbases. For one: both groups are unnecessarily and repeatedly cryptic with what they want and two they're both presented as sinister. For the much of the bulk of the novel,  the reader has absolutely no idea why Mia is so important. It's quite frustating reading endless rigamarole, obvious traps and lies without having any idea why such manuevering is needed. While I get doign the "big reveal" closer to the end, I might've bough the machinations of both cults more if I knew the reasons. I might've tolerated the wait better if anything to do with the lightning had been shown, but no. For a book about a lightning "addict", there's very little explained about the phenomenon. I just wish there'd been much less  discussion on religion and the Prophet versus the dangerous and Spark-enhanced Seekers, and more about the natural disasters/Mia's lightning.

I felt very unsatisfied with the worldbuilding here. There are some details given initially that seemed to bode well for how this vision of Armageddon would commence but they dried up early in favor of religious fervor and drama. The infodumps used to indoctrinate the readers aren't as bad as the ones in say, The Rook, which had chapters and chapters of amusing and diverting details, but they aren't camouflaged very well either. Eavesdropping, remedial lessons, etc. serve to inject the slight history needed but it felt incomplete. Another issue not explained to my satisfaction was the relationship the "conductors" and the "bonds" used for the lightning - Bosworth kinda throws the ideas out there fairly early on in Struck, but never fully comes back around to expand on how such a thing is done. The romance angle (you knew there had to be one..) ... I'm not even going to fully go there. Let's just say I called Jeremy's big twist very very early on (it's incredibly obvious and telegraphed to the audience early) and I wasn't a huge fan of his motivation, characterization or actions. While he doesn't inspire me to the anger that many, many other YA male love interests do, he's no prince either.The repeated cyrpyic remarks he refuses to clarify, the required mysterious and painful past... I just found him to be too much of a cliche to invest overmuch in him. Mia, though not what I wanted, at least has the distinction of being a three-dimensional, original character/

To put it baldly and in the simplest terms: Struck just plain-old disappointed me, but it isn't necessarily a bad book - it's just not for me. All that potential and what I got was far from what was anticipated from the blurb and synopsis. There are kernels of a good story here in Struck and Mia is far from the worst protagonist I've come across, but in the end, I must go with my conscious and admit this left a lot to be desired upon finishing.

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