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A Little Spark by Barry Jonsberg

It seems like the most hard hitting novels around come from the YA fiction genre. These big dramatic moments are so well encapsulated in the tropes of the genre - first loves, first losses, feelings of isolation, friendship dynamics, family dynamics, everything that speaks to the troublesome and worrisome age of teenagehood.

Barry Jonsberg is someone who knows their way around a story. His writing is effortlessly engaging and deals with issues that are common amongst young people. In A Little Spark he tackles the issues around separated parents and the connection that has been fostered between Cate and her dad.

The issues begin when Cate’s stepfather - the frustrating Sam - gets news of a job opportunity that requires him to move to the other side of the world. From Australia to London.

But Cate’s time with her father always creates something quite special - a little spark if you like! - that results in her developing new and exciting ideas that she begins to express through writing, music and self-expression more generally. It seems that the relationship with her dad is the most important thing in her life at this moment.

The decision making process is never going to be straight forward in a situation like this. Choosing one side always means giving up the other, and when it comes to parents it is an ordeal of the heart to choose between the two most important people in your life as a young teen.

The imaginative component to this novel is wonderfully written. The continuation of that ‘spark’ that young people have and the capturing of the world in writing, music and art is such a vital part of development. It is heartwarming to read about the connections that Cate has with both parents in the story, and that the separation has not diminished the love that she has for her family.

In addition, the relationship with Ellie, Cate’s best friend, brings with it its own adventures of UFOs, flash mobs and unicorns in this magic exploration of the never ending limits of imagination.

A highly recommended read for young people looking for something quite different, special and engaging. It really captures the heart as Jonsberg challenges the reader to go on the journey with Cate. It is tough at times, funny at times, but all together fantastic!

Reviewer: Chris Reed

Allen & Unwin


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