Seventeen year-old Evangeline Everton doesn’t have a choice. Struggling to come to terms with the death of her mother, and anxious about returning to school, Evie has nightmares, pins and needles, a quickened pulse and a tightening chest. She develops an inexplicable need to be close to her best friend, Kitty, and an intense attraction to Kitty’s twin brother, Jamie. But, her physical symptoms and intense social dependencies are more than mere signs of severe anxiety.
Evie’s DNA has pre-determined that she is a Shield, created to protect a Spark. Strays kill Sparks. So, when Kitty is attacked, Evie is suspected of being a Stray to Kitty’s Spark. When Kitty is attacked a second time, Evie’s speed, strength, connectedness to and protectiveness of Kitty proves that she is her Shield. But, it is not enough for Evie to protect Kitty from an attack – Kitty will only be safe if Evie kills the Stray.
Spark, the début novel by YA author Rachael Craw, follows Evie as she tries to understand and control her abilities, her over-protective pull to Kitty and her intense desire for Jamie, while also trying to find out who the Stray is and mentally and physically prepare herself to kill it.
Spark is, for the most part, a thrilling read. Narrated by Evie, her developing super-human abilities are cleverly tangled up with her anxieties about her relationships with her friends and her aunt and guardian, Miriam. The only disruption to the otherwise fast-paced narrative is the exposition of the sci-fi elements. Evie starts evolving into a Shield faster than any Shields have before her, which sets her up as an exciting character to follow, but also makes it harder for the reader to develop an understanding of the sci-fi elements. Explanations of Shields, Strays, Sparks, Kinetic Transference and other sci-fi elements are staggered throughout the book, as none of the knowledgeable characters want to overwhelm Evie with information. While the staggered exposition makes for a slightly disjointed read, it doesn’t cause a major disruption to the flow of the story.
Rachael Craw writes in the biography section at the back of the book that she created Spark because she wanted to create a feisty female character. Spark is primarily concerned with the development of Evie’s abilities. Evie spends the early part of the story swooning and fainting, which would put her in the passive damsel category, if not for the justification that her body is initially overwhelmed by her transition to a Shield. As she gains an awareness of her abilities, Evie develops an assertive drive and evolves into a feisty and both mentally and physically strong young woman.
The banter between Evie and some of the minor characters, coupled with the antagonist, Richard, being nicknamed Dick, makes Spark a fun read. The sci-fi elements of the fight scenes were easy to visualise and the flirtations between characters were swoon-worthy. Bonus points for Craw’s homage to Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. Spark answers all of the major questions it sets up, while ending with a series of new captivating complications that will be explored in the second book of the trilogy, Stray.