Weirdly normal, Ashley Raine Legaspi
Spark by Rachael Craw is the first book in a young adult science fiction series set in our world. It explores the idea of genetically engineered humans. Decades ago, the organisation called Affinity decided to create the “perfect soldier” for hire: humans with enhanced capabilities, such as “a soldier stronger than ten men”. Unfortunately, something went wrong, as it always does, and there emerged three types of mutants. The Spark, described as “walking lighterfluid”, are those who “activate” the other two. The Shield, is made to protect the Spark, and the Stray, whose sole purpose is to kill the Spark.
Evangeline “Evie” Everton has been through a rough couple of months. Her mom died and so she has moved to a new town to live with her aunt, which just happens to be the home of her best friend, Kitty Gallagher and her brother, Jamie. So she is going through some changes and, while that is to be expected, some of what she has been experiencing has just been plain weird. Like super strength weird. Or being able to implode-glass-with-mind weird. Turns out she’s “activated” as a Shield, tasked to protect Kitty, as her first Spark. However, being a first-timer, she has to first be trained by Affinity, which is not ideal since that means being away for a month, leaving Kitty unprotected. And to rub salt into the wound, Shields never save their first Spark. So begins Evie’s uphill battle of “Shielding” Kitty from an unknown danger, as well as avoiding the organisation responsible for the whole mess in the first place.
I found Spark to be gripping, fast paced and action-packed. My favourite aspect of the book was definitely the characters.
Despite being super-enhanced mutants, they are normal people, flawed and imperfect just like us, which made them easier to relate to. Evie, with her own troubles, still manages to overcome her fears and insecurities; Kitty stays strong and is able to provide humour even in such trying times; Jamie does not even need an explanation to why he is amazing; and the parental figures, Barb, Leonard and Miriam, are actually given key roles in the story, instead of being some distant figures that sometimes appear in the dreams of the protagonist. The romance aspect was great. It was there, but it did not overpower the rest of the story. The friendship between Evie and Kitty is wonderfully written, supportive and loving with each other. Craw was also able to convey what it means to be a family through the Gallaghers, doing whatever it takes to protect those you love.
I did, however, have some problems with it. One was that there is a lot of info-dumping in the first half, which was hard for me to move past, and while it gives a lot of essential background information, I found it written in a way that kind of disrupted the flow of the story.
Another was that one part might send the wrong message: like when her chest grew to a size which was explained as “becoming better-looking”. That did not sit well with me. Why does one’s body have to change to be more appealing? It is saying that one has to be a particular body-type or well-endowed to be considered attractive and that is not the kind of idea you want to impart to readers, especially those of young age.
All in all, I rated it 3 out of 5 stars and I definitely can’t wait to read the rest of the series.
Ashley Raine Legaspi is an 18-year-old avid reader and lives in Wellington.