Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Guaranteed to Spark Your Interest

Spark: A Sky Chasers Novel
In Amy Kathleen Ryan's first book, Glow, we saw two fundamentally different ships full of people hurtling towards an unknown planet in the hopes of continuing the human race that was doomed on a destroyed planet Earth. Desperate people will take desperate measures to survive, and the two ships, New Horizons and Empyrean were no different. In Spark, we see just how far they will go to survive.

Waverly managed to get the girls back from New Horizons in a brave escape, but they had to leave people behind: their parents. Now Empyrean is being run by Kieran, who even though he was supposed to be captain, is being questioned about every decision he makes. He has locked Seth in the brig for attempted mutiny without a trial and is keeping an eye on Waverly. Although he means well, Kieran's paranoia about another mutiny is causing him to do things he normally wouldn't do.

But the ship has another problem. Someone is sabotaging the ship, changing its direction, poisoning kids, and has mixed some chemicals in the lab. The kids assume the stowaway is from the New Horizons, but they have no idea who he is or what he wants. Seth knows the only way to prove he isn't working with the stowaway is to capture him, but to Kieran, that would make Seth guilty of treason as well. With the kids left alone on the ship to fend for themselves and no adults to guide them, Empyrean is struggling to stay afloat both internally and externally. Can the kids' ship continue on their mission to the New Earth?

Glow was a really interesting story with a lot of background information into the world of the story. Now Spark takes the story to the next level in an attempt to get them closer to their physical destination: New Earth, and an attempt to make the kids grow up in a difficult situation. Some of the issues on the ship are very typical of young kids trying to work and live an adult life forced upon them, but some of the situations would have arisen in this situation regardless of how old the crew was. It was interesting to see Kieran struggle with his grasp on the ship and just how far he would go to keep order. The most intriguing characters were Waverly and Seth. We saw both of them pushed to the brink in the last book, but both handled the stress in very different ways. Waverly, in particular, found herself struggling to remember who she was and willing to do anything she could, even murder and torture, in order to protect the other kids on the ship. It was a very interesting examination on human nature and what we will do when threatened.

This is a very interesting series for anyone interested in lighter science fiction, but it could also appeal to kids not usually tempted by Sci-Fi. The characters are 3 dimensional and will keep you hanging on to see their most recent evolution. The story is clean enough for a wide variety of ages, but some of the deeper parts of the story, like the interesting examination in human nature, would be lost on a younger reader. Also, the idea of kidnapping young girls to harvest their eggs and repopulate New Horizons is pretty horrific. This book may be best left for more mature middle school students with strong reading skills through the high school crowd. And a little warning... Ryan leaves you on quite a cliff-hangar. You aren't going to be happy to wait a whole year for the next book!

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