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When Lightning Strikes    by Meg Cabot order for
When Lightning Strikes
by Meg Cabot
Order:  USA  Can
Pulse, 2004 (2001)

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* * *   Reviewed by Melissa Parcel

Sophomore Jessica Mastriani is known for her impulsive behavior at school. She's been in detention nearly the entire year because she tends to hit people when they insult those she cares about. She receives yet another week of staying after school because she hits a football player who called her friend Ruth fat, an insult Ruth takes personally. Instead of driving Jess home as usual, Ruth decides the two should walk to get some exercise. The weather looks ominous. A short distance from the school, the girls are caught in a hail and lightning storm and take refuge under metal bleachers.

As Jess is leaning against the post, lightning strikes and travels through her body, leaving her feeling tingly. Later, she notices a star shaped mark on her chest, which she assumes is the point of entry. Other than that there don't seem to be any effects. But when Jess wakes up the next morning, she realizes she knows the exact locations of two missing children she saw mentioned on the back of a milk carton. Jess can't rest until she calls the phone number '1-800-WHERE-R-U' to report what she knows. This sets off a chain of events that digs Jess into deeper and more sinister places than she could have ever imagined.

When Lightning Strikes is the first of a four book series featuring Jessica's ability to find missing people. Originally published under Cabot's pen name, Jenny Carroll, the books have just been re-released. Jess is a typical teen with problems both at school and at home -- for example, her brother is mentally ill, and her mother insists that she and Jess dress alike. Understandably, when Jess finds herself with psychic ability, she is confused and doesn't know what to do. The exciting pace of the novel will have readers entranced with unfolding events, much like an action adventure movie.

Elements of romance and other relationship issues round out the plot to let readers see all sides of Jess and her family, as well as offering a bit of a breather from the intense action. Meg Cabot writes with her trademark style, utilizing familiar teen language and behavior. Fans will want to pick up other books in the series, and also check out the Lifetime television series, 1-800-MISSING, which is based on characters from the book.

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