Plot: Girl has been struck by lightning multiple times and survives, thrills on the experience. Lives in L.A. after being forced out of her old home for electrical reasons. Massive earthquake along one of the lesser West Coast fault lines destroys L.A., destroying girl's mother's sanity and enabling a white-clad televangelist to gain unprecedented power and a group of believers called the Followers. Rival to that group is the black-robed, New Age influenced Seekers who have claimed girl's school as their territory to recruit members. Including girl. Girl is almost murdered by mystery boy who has predictive visions and seems to belong to neither group. Girl must decide which wack-job outfit to join in order to use her lightning-bequeathed powers to save the world from the next major electrically-induced earthquake, which is predicted to happen in a week. Or she must take mystery boy and her crazy family and get out of L.A.
Ridiculous plot, huh? I thought so.
But ridiculous as it may be, it works! Girl — Mia — is as reluctant and skeptical a hero as has ever been, and I think that may be a big part of why this plot works. But it's also simply well-written. There is just enough "supporting data" to make it plausible enough to enjoy the adventure. Jennifer Bosworth treads the narrow ridge between cynical and naive, that place where belief is still possible for her characters but not all-consuming. Her main characters make informed decisions, perhaps based on fear, greed and lies, but not the willful ignorance that defines cult behavior. Mind you, there are plenty of cult zombies surrounding the main cast and muddying up the decision-making process. But that, too, is believable in a destroyed city.
Bosworth has also masterfully retained the ability to laugh at what she is writing rather than fall into the common pit of taking your story too seriously. My favorite example of this is when Mia, desperate for any evidence that she is not predestined to die and take the world along with her, goes to a psychic for a Tarot reading that does not label her the Tower girl. She is first struck with the clichéd collection of junk all around the psychic's shop. Then when the old woman introduces herself as Madame Lupescu, Mia's only thought is "Of course she is".
Dry wit can save any plot. Jonathan Swift proved that centuries ago. Like Swift, Bosworth has taken a laughable idea and turned it into a story that delivers on many levels. It's a great apocalyptic adventure. A coming-of-age tale for the kids who just don't fit in. A love story for a girl who didn't believe in love. A tale that tests the bonds of family. And a chilling commentary on what horrors fear can work in a ravaged society.
One note of caution: this is a real L.A. not too far in the future and wracked by lawlessness and despair. Violence, drug-abuse, and graft are rampant. This is not one for the younger crowd.