Monday, February 15, 2021

Summer Lightning by Wendy Corsi Staub


I have this project I do where I look up vintage YA pulps from the 80s and 90s and review them! Some of them are rereads from my childhood but some of them are new to me. SUMMER LIGHTNING by Wendy Corsi Staub is new to me. It looks like she made a switch to writing thrillers for adults but she used to write books for kids. This is one of those, a Harper Prism title about ghosts and doomed love.

Set in Maine, our heroine is a girl named Melissa Loring, a Jane Everygirl who wants to be a writer when she grows up. When we meet her, it's her seventeenth birthday and she's just been given a computer as a birthday gift so she can hack out her books on there instead of a typewriter. She and her family live in an old Victorian house and her bedroom is in the turret room and if you think that's ripe for horrific ghostly happenings, you'd be right. It is.

As soon as she turns the computer on, she sees a weird message. She also has blackouts where she hears voices and strange music. Pretty soon, she starts to think that she's seeing a strange boy. A boy who makes her double-think her attraction to her long-term boyfriend, Tripp.

The set-up for this book is really good and I think it will appeal to any fans of Caroline B. Cooney, as there's some really lush Gothic imagery that's almost lyrical. And for a YA book, it's surprisingly sensual. I guess this is Harper and not Scholastic's Point Horror, so maybe that's why it talks about going all the way and has some pretty intense kissing scenes. Maybe Harper decided to skate the prurient edge a little more with their YA thrillers. I don't know, but I kind of liked it. It made me feel like I was watching one of those so-cheesy-it's-good 80s horror movies.

There are some pretty dated references in here-- music, pop culture, Nancy Reagan-- but rather than dating the book, they end up being charming and kind of sweet. The computer stuff also seemed pretty legit. Like the person who wrote the book actually knew a thing or two about technology.

Overall, I'm pretty impressed with this little book. It got damn creepy at the end.

3 to 3.5 out of 5 stars

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