Newton Starker is the last in the Starker line. All of his Starker relatives, except for his cranky great-grandmother, have died from lightning strikes, his mother being the most recent victim. No one knows why lightning so regularly strikes down the Starkers. Scientific tests have come up with nothing and Newton refused to believe it’s a family curse because that simply isn’t logical. Newton, in an attempt to live a long life, decides to attend the Jeremy Potts Academy of Higher Learning and Survival. At J.P. he not only gets an intellectual education but is also taught survival skills, like which plants are edible and which will kill you and how to craft shelter in the wilderness. Newton arrives at school with the idea that he will excel at everything, be top in his class, and be of interest to all. Things don’t turn out exactly the way Newton hopes and he has a few very important life lessons to learn if he is going to not only survive but actually live his life.
Reaction: I really wanted to like this one but the characters held me back from true like. There were a lot of good things. I really enjoyed the format. The chapters were, mostly, short. Interspersed with Newton’s story were newspaper articles about his family, facts about landmarks, emails from the headmaster, tips from the Jeremy Pott’s survival guide, Newton’s recipes, etc. I really enjoyed the fact that there school uniforms were kilts because of Jeremy Pott’s distant Scottish relatives. This is just one of the examples of the author’s humor, which is laced throughout the story. My favorite part of the novel had to be Josephine. Newton calls a French chef he knows to order some truffles for an assignment, but Newton’s French isn’t so hot so he’s not exactly positive that he ordered what he wanted to order. Sure enough, along with the truffles, the chef sends Josephine, a truffle-sniffing pig. Josephine is smart. She finds anything Newton asks her to find and she’s probably the best friend he’s ever had.
Holding me back from truly enjoying this novel was my inability to connect with the characters. Newton is a bit too egotistical for me. I know this is in large part due to how he was raised, an only child who may die every time he goes outside, what parent wouldn’t be over-protective, and his lack of socialization, see again over-protection and his mother’s assertion that he should never have friends. The thing is, though, he always went to a school with other students so he maybe shouldn’t have been as full of himself as he was. Also, I just wanted a bit more transformation from him, though I suppose in such a short novel that would have been unrealistic. I also though Jacob was a bit of a pushover. He seemed to take whatever Newton dished out, though it is nice of him to be loyal. And I didn’t quite get why Violet liked Newton. Maybe it’s because he could compete with her and they were similar, loners who thought they were going to be the best at everything? I just thought she was a bit too forgiving in the end. I mean, he left here there! He did come back but I’d still have been a bit mad.
Jolted does have a lot of thing’s going for it — formatting, humor, interesting and unique plot — and not everyone will have my same issues with the characters — honestly, there were lots of times when Newton was very likable, but mostly they were times when he wasn’t interacting with anyone. I think it will be a satisfying story for readers looking to fill the void until the last Percy Jackson comes out.
A link to a more positive review: The Happy Nappy Bookseller