I’m a big fan of sci-fi that doesn’t feel like sci-fi – books that are set in a contemporary world, with sci-fi elements. It gives the stories an eery feel, because you can’t help but look around and wonder if such things are actually possible. After all, what seemed like fantastical technology only a few years ago is all so incredibly possible now.
Spark, by Rachael Craw takes a normal teenage girl, in a normal (albeit rocked with tragedy) teenage world, and throws some tampered DNA into the mix. The result is a fun, fast-paced novel, that makes you think twice about shaking hands with someone.
Basically, Evie is a third generation person with tampered DNA (although she doesn’t grow up knowing this) from an experiment gone wrong. When her DNA becomes active, and she touches her best friend, she suddenly has instincts to protect her friend that are impossible to ignore. And I mean literally impossible – her DNA won’t let her ignore them. And with an unknown killer after her friend, Evie finds herself thrust into the centre of a whole new world… and on the brink of a brand new life.
Evie is a fun character. Her mother has recently died, but she doesn’t wallow in grief. Her new instincts may be helping with that, but most of it is because she is already a strong person. She’s a bit snarky, but not over the top, and you can’t help but like and root for her. Of course, it wouldn’t be a good YA book without a bit of romance, and Evie has her eye on her best friend’s brother. They dance around each other for a while, both liking one another but pretending not to, but they don’t drag it out, and instead it’s real life, or rather Evie’s DNA-bound life that gets in the way and causes conflict.
Like plenty of other sci-fi books, Spark has a ton of lingo and acronyms to get across to readers in the first few chapters. They could have possibly been woven in a little more so that it doesn’t feel like an info dump, and that section feels bogged down by the terms. That’s the only part of the novel that is slow however, and once you get your head around KMT and KMH and Fixation Effects (readers, keep this glossary handy while reading), it is a fast-paced read that gets your heart racing several times.
The novel ends with the reader wanting to know a lot more about the world of Sparks, Shields, and Strays, especially the organisation side which are a force felt but not really seen throughout the novel. Fortunately Spark is part of a trilogy, and Stray is due out 2015, and Shield out 2016.
REVIEWER: JJ McConnachie
Spark, by Rachael Craw is published by Walker Books Australia, RRP NZ $21.99