A high schooler struck by lightning suddenly begins hearing—and conversing with—a boy’s voice inside her head in this YA fantasy.
Fifteen-year-old Floridian Mahlorie Moore is often alone, not always by choice. Her mom, Victoria M. Reddish, a famous author of romance novels, is typically away for book signings. Her magician dad, Bob, is usually performing on cruise ships. Though socializing is low on Mahlorie’s list, she reluctantly heads to a party one weekend that her best friend, Shai Dwenger, suggests. But after an intoxicated boy’s unwanted advances, Mahlorie leaves in the midst of a raging storm. She’s hit by lightning, which she miraculously survives. Only now she hears a male voice in her head, and it’s quickly apparent he can hear her, too. It takes some getting used to, but the boy is considerate and sometimes helpful, as when he provides the solution to a math problem in Mahlorie’s class. She learns she’s speaking with 17-year-old Dyson Hertz, who becomes a friendly voice and, eventually, something much more. When his voice evidently disappears, Mahlorie wonders if he’s simply no longer talking to her. So she searches for him to get answers and maybe see the boy she loves in the flesh. Mahlorie, who narrates her story, is a bright but convincingly flawed protagonist. For example, she seemingly has a fear of abandonment while simultaneously isolating herself. But she tends to be frank, and if a boy invades her personal space, she doesn’t hesitate to let him know. Engle’s first-rate cast of characters includes sometimes-selfish but consistently loyal Shai and Mahlorie’s creepy older cousin, Philip. Her parents are likewise memorable, although their jobs are excessively conspicuous metaphors (for instance, Victoria will “plot” Mahlorie like one of her characters; control in life is merely an illusion). Nevertheless, the author recounts familiar situations in lyrical fashion, from an awkward silence (“Quiet roars between us”) to a trek in the dark woods (“Night stretches through the crunch of leaves and sticks that snap beneath my feet”).
A tale presents troubled adolescence and romance through the eyes of a remarkable teen protagonist.