Title: Jolted: Newton Starker’s Rules for Survival
Author: Arthur Slade
ISBN: 9780385747004
Pages: 227 pages
Publisher/Date: Wendy Lamb Books, c2009.

Newton Starker knew he would most likely die from a lightning strike. The bolt would deliver three hundred kilovolts of electricity to the top of his skull, burning his scalp and popping thousands of brain cells like popcorn. Then it would arc along his nervous system, arteries and veins, frying his heart and lungs. The lightning would leave deep burns at the exit points as it blew off his shoes and scraps of his clothing.
It would happen in the blink of an eye. Zap! One fried fourteen-year-old Newton, the last male heir of the Starker line. […]
Lightning had blotted out nearly ever member of the Starker family tree, including his grandfather, his uncle Darwin, his mother. (2-3)

After his mother’s inevitable death by lightning strike, Newton Starker feels he has no choice but to enroll himself in the Jerry Potts Academy for Survival, where they wear kilts, give their students traditional knives to wear, and teach them out to eat bugs. Here, he hopes to learn how to prevent himself from becoming the next lightning casualty, which has been happening since the late 1700s to every member of the Starker family. Instead of making friends however, he looses his kilt in front of the entire class and then looses fist fight with a girl. But with a scent tracking pig who seems to understand more than is normal, will Newton be able to save the day before the approaching storm gets him?

The concept is there, but the execution is missing. The supporting characters (Violet, the girl who beats Newton up, and Jacob, the fantasy writer) are never really fully developed. Even Newton is a strange fellow, with his alterations from resigned to resolved being hard to follow. The feud between him and Violet makes up most of the plot, which is also unbelievable. The all-knowing pig reminds me of Lassie, with Newton relying on Josephine the pig way too much for someone who joined the school to learn survival skills. Finally, guys wearing kilts voluntarily?! Maybe things are different in Canada, but I can’t see a whole school full of guys agreeing to that idea.

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