Ethan Thorn doesn’t fit within the confines of his small town. He has no friends and spends most of his time hacking into the accounts of the more hypocritical residents of Orchard Side. But then, without warning, he is Struck and his world is turned upside down. Yanked from his home, Ethan is now a part of a secret government program where teens have been turned into superheroes and lab rats, all of them against their will. Ethan didn’t have much of a life before, but at least it was his. Suddenly, he’s struggling to make sense of his new existence and of the fact he suddenly has friends and a purpose for the first time.
Making the transition easier is Adam, leader of the team of which Ethan is now a part. Adam is handsome, brave, and utterly kind, and Ethan is captivated by Adam nearly from the start. But Adam has a dark past and as his secrets spill into the light, they will have ramifications for the entire team.
Struck: The Lightning Project is the first in a new YA series involving a team of reluctant superheroes. And by reluctant, I mean they’ve been kidnapped, forced to genetically evolve, and are essentially being held hostage by a shadowy government organization. So it isn’t your everyday superhero story. The characters are diverse and the story engaging, but Struck has its issues and struggles to find its purpose.
From the dour and defiant Ethan, to the quiet K, the cast of Struck is as varied as they are talented. They have a wide array of powers and unique personalities and while some stand out more than others, none felt like a one-note page filler. The relationship between Ethan and Adam takes center stage and while Ethan is all bark and no bite, he and Adam tend to serve as a decent balance for one another. There is a villain who is less defined and somewhat of a “gotcha” character, but this may resolve itself in future books.
The biggest issue with Struck is its tendency to rush through important moments. There isn’t a lot of breathing room in this book and often there’s some big reveal and in a few pages we’re over it and moving onto the next. And every secret is spoiled as soon as it’s discovered, even when characters promise not to talk about it. As a result, there’s no real sense of anticipation; I didn’t get too invested in the big moments because I knew as soon as I turned the page the situation would be resolved or the some issue mitigated without much effort. I found it frustrating and a little disappointing. Additionally, we never really get to the see the team in action. For a superhero book, Struck was seriously lacking in the whole superhero thing. We do see the kids use their powers from time to time, but there weren’t any significant moment of unified fighting or anything that actually suggested they were working as a larger team. Maybe this will evolve as the series continues, but it was an area that stood out as lacking.
Struck was fairly enjoyable as a YA romance and certainly has the premise of something interesting is in its bones. There is a diverse, LGBTQ cast and, as individuals, there are some standouts, like Ethan, Adam, K, and Esther. But the story often failed to deliver and moments of conflict or personal challenge were too quickly resolved. I will be curious to see where The Lightening Project goes next and I think there’s enough here to at least grab the attention of most readers.