Spark is a pulse-pounding YA sci-fi thriller from New Zealand’s Rachael Craw. It served as a great follow up to Jessica Shirvington’s Disruption and Corruption and has easily made its way to my all time favourites list.
Evie doesn’t have a choice.
One day she’s an ordinary seventeen year old, grieving for her mother. The next, she’s a Shield, the result of a decades-old experiment gone wrong, bound by DNA to defend her best friend from an unknown killer.
The threat could come at home, at school, anywhere. All Evie knows is that it will be a fight to the death.
What I Liked:
What makes Spark such an enjoyable read is that it not only has a brilliant female lead at its helm, but one that is supported by such a wonderful ensemble of characters. So bare with me while I gush about them:
Evie: She is quite a wholesome YA character, to put it simply. She is fierce, loyal, and loving and these have nothing to do with her genetics. Her insecurities made her realistic and I loved that her doubts and questions did not just disappear with the progressing narrative. They morphed in tandem with her progress on the learning curve. I loved that she was a cautious character despite her superhuman abilities. Evie has a wonderful cache of relationships with the supporting characters, particularly Miriam and Kitty. Her romance with Jaime is sweet if not simple but does not overpower the greater narrative.
Jaime: I will try to gather some coherent thoughts when it comes to Jaime because he is quite possibly one my favourite YA male characters of all time. He loves Evie but he is never overbearing or overly sentimental about it. He is supportive and respectful of Evie, believing in her strength and ability even when he cannot keep up with what she is capable off. Evie recoils from their relationship a couple of times and he simply lays out everything in front of her and hands her the reins to steer their future.
Kitty: She could have easily been a damsel in distress and for the most past she is, but her quiet strength and witty commentary on her situation is admirable. My heart broke again and again for Kitty because despite being at the centre of such tragedy, she cared so much about how it affected everyone close to her. I particularly loved the exchange between Jaime, Kitty and Evie in the car on their first day of their senior year together, it was heart-wrenchingly hilarious.
Miriam: Adults are so rarely likeable or well-drawn in YA but Miriam is one of those rare characters who is not only well developed but also very captivating. I was fascinated as Ms Craw revealed her, layer after layer. She is so beautifully complex.Miriam is this awesome combination of doting/over-protective mum and cool/badass aunt. She doles out tough love as effortlessly as she showers warmth and affection.
Leonard and Barb: I feel fierce love for these two. Ordinarily you would expect Leonard and Bard to be unnecessarily obstructive characters (and even though I don’t blame her, Barb was introduced as such) but the lengths this couple go to secure and support their children is beautiful. I adored their relationship with Evie, some of the best moments of this novel are shared between Evie and Leonard, who against all odds, becomes a father-figure to Evie.
You can tell I am a sucker for well-imagined family dynamics and the abovementioned collective is one of the most wonderfully weird families you will encounter in YA. I loved seeing them collide and come together.
Cast of Friends: Lila, Imogen, Gil and Pete provided stellar comic relief, poignant and heart-warming. I am so glad that they did not turn out to be snobby mean girls/guys.
Other supporting characters, lead by Aiden and the world class slime ball duo of Richard and his Dad, were also intriguing and well tied into the narrative to evade, confuse and ultimately knock your breath away.
Characters aside, the science and the history behind shields, strays and sparks were a little heady at times but Ms Craw evenly splits this foundational information and spreads it throughout narrative, coupling it with plot twists and mitigating any information overloads. And I appreciated her for this because I loved the rich scientific background, it made the uniqueness of what was happening to Evie all the more fascinating and thrilling.
Finally, the narrative proceeds at a break-neck pace, without a moment to catch your breath, let alone a dull moment. The explosive conclusion is mind-blowing and sets very high expectations for the forthcoming installments, Stray (1 September 2015) and Shield (2016). Ms Craw has expertly introduced and/or touched a number of unknowns that may well become plot subjects for the sequels and I for one cannot wait to see how they shape up!
What I Did Not Like:
Nothing. Nada. Nil. Zip. Zero. Zilch.
That being said, I am waiting for Stray and Shield with an almost insufferable sense of eagerness and suffered from a serious case of a good book hangover after finishing Spark. I expected as much, but it does not mean I have to enjoy it. Such is the life of a book nerd. I digress.
In conclusion, Spark is a thrilling read with a fresh and intriguing concept at its core. The action-packed narrative is a bonus, with its real strength being the beautifully diverse relationships between the equally well-drawn characters therein. I highly recommend it!