Story: 1-800-Where-R-You Series
Author: Meg Cabot
Story URL: Amazon Link to 1-800 Series
Alternate URL: Amazon Link to first book in series
Rating: Young Adult (See rant below about this not being a kids series.)
Wikipedia Summary: This series revolves around Jessica Mastriani, an ordinary 16-year-old girl given extraordinary psychic powers after being struck by lightning. Her powers allow her to know the exact location of missing children; after seeing a picture of a person, they appear in her dreams. The first four books take place over less than a year, and chronicle her attempts to help missing children while trying to avoid the scrutiny of the federal government. The fifth book, published four years after the fourth book, picks up the story line after Jess has turned 19. Over the course of the books, Jess is romantically involved with Rob Wilkins, a boy from the wrong side of the tracks.
The first four books were written under Cabot’s pseudonym, Jenny Carroll. After poor sales, the series was discontinued. Sales improved when the books were re-released in 2004 under Cabot’s real name. Cabot was unhappy with the discontinuation; she stated that she wanted to take the series up to eight books. Her current publishing house agreed to publish one more installment. Missing You was released in December 2006 and ended the series.
The 1-800-WHERE-R-YOU series was the basis for the television show Missing, which aired on the Lifetime cable network for three seasons from 2003 to 2006. The series has been reprinted in the US in an omnibus edition, and retitled Vanished.
I didn’t keep good notes for each separate book, but here’s what I have:
1) When Lightening Strikes – The storytelling style reminded me vaguely of the Princess Diaries books, but with a much more natural flow and likable lead character. I really enjoyed this a lot! The story stuck with me long after I read it, necessitating more than one re-read. The protagonist, Jess, is a hoot, the dialogue is quippy, the story is exciting, and overall the book is just plain fun. I really like the narrative style that Cabot uses. I think it works better in this book than in Princess Diaries. In fact, there are a lot of things about this series that I like better than Princess Diaries. It’s a shame this series didn’t gain the popularity of that series, as Jess and the side characters in the 1-800 series are really interesting, 3-dimensional, and – as I said before – fun!
My only disappointment was that this is not appropriate reading for my 3rd grader. In fact, let me go on record here as stating as a general rule: Do not ever try to read Meg Cabot’s books to children. High school age, maybe. But don’t let the Disney version of Princess Diaries mislead you: she does not write for kids. It’s not like there are major erotica moments in these books; but personally, I wasn’t interested in explaining things like double entendre regarding the size of a guy’s package while reading the story to my 9-year-old. So I’m keeping this series to myself for now.
2) Code Name Cassandra – Different setting, same great characters and dramatic tension. I laughed like crazy in certain parts!
3) Safe House – Excellent mystery.
4) Sanctuary – Surprisingly fun and edge-of-your-seat.
5) Missing You – I was mad at Rob in this book, even though he didn’t actually do anything wrong. This final book in the series fast-forwarded a few years into Jess’s future, much to my initial displeasure. But the book turned out pretty good in spite of that. Jess was still distinctly herself in spite of the passing years and what changes they’d wrought.