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The premise will snag readers immediately: except for his great-grandmother and father, every member of 14-year-old Newton Starker's family has been killed by lightning. The family keeps a set of rules-"Beware of cumulonimbus clouds," "Check the weather. Recheck the weather. Check it again"-but even they couldn't save Newton's mother, killed two years earlier. (The teen's father, not part of the bloodline, is not a lightning magnet.) Now, Newton has enrolled at the Jerry Potts Academy for Survival in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and hopes to avoid a similar fate. Stubborn and obsessed with all things culinary (especially truffles), Newton gains a new friend, an enemy/love interest and a pig with a talent for finding hidden objects in short order. But finding answers about the Starker "curse" isn't as easy. In brisk chapters, Slade (Megiddo's Shadow) offers readers plenty of humor (often at Newton's expense), as well as asides that include e-mails, character background and recipes. Slade's portrayal of Newton's sweep of emotions as he deals with his perceived fate-fear, fury, dogged determination-is especially convincing. Ages 11-14. (Mar.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.