A strong story for those who can read confidently but aren’t keen to tackle complex plots. Fans of Dax Jones may, however, be a little disappointed by the slower pace.
Alisha and new boy, Theo, are both struggling to fit in at Beechwood Junior. However, they soon become celebrities when they’re struck by lightning on sports day. Now everyone wants to be their friend – including all the ghosts who haunt Easthampton. Having several thousands of volts skipped through their nervous systems has made both Alisha and Theo unusually sensitive to the spirit world. The pair are happy to make friends with two teenage ghosts from the 1970s (Doug and Lizzie) but Alisha and Theo are much less keen on the faceless grey entities that start following them around. It’s almost like the ghosts are trying to tell them something – trying to warn them about something that’s going to happen. Will Alisha and Theo be able to figure out what before it’s too late?
This is a shorter, and significantly simpler, story than many of Ali Sparkes’s other action packed adventures. There are fewer twists and turns and far fewer dramatic moments than the books in the Shapeshifter series or her award-winning Car-Jacked. As a huge fan of these faced-paced stories, I personally found this a little disappointing. However, the slower pace and clear writing style makes Thunderstruck more suitable for a younger audience.
Indeed, this is the perfect story for those who can read confidently but aren’t keen to tackle complex plots. Focused on the four members of the newly formed Strike Club (made up of Theo and Alisha from the real world and Doug and Lizzie from the spirit world), the characters are well drawn and easy to relate to. (As an adult reader, the 1970s references also made me smile but I suspect this will go over the heads of the target audience).
Young readers are also likely to identify with Theo and Alisha’s desire to fit in at school, particularly Alisha’s desire to be accepted by the popular kids. As you would expect from a story for this age, Alisha gradually learns that there are more important things in life and by the conclusion of the book she is no longer feels the need to change who she is in order to fit in.
The straightforward narrative is easy to follow with just enough of a twist at the end to keep the reader interested. In many ways the softer tone reminds me of the gentle mystery stories of Elen Caldecott, in particular The Mystery of Wickworth Manor or How Kirsty Jenkins Stole the Elephant.
Overall, I enjoyed the book. However, fans of Dax Jones and Ali’s other action-packed adventure stories may be a little disappointed by the slower pace.
If you enjoyed this, I’d definitely recommend any of Elen Caldecott’s mystery stories for young middle grade readers. Why not try one of the two I’ve listed above or Diamonds and Daggers – The Marsh Road Mysteries.
Publication date: March 2017
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Author’s website: Ali Sparkes
Review first published on The Bookbag