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Spark Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 17, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 6-10-Strange and powerful forces are at work in the skies over sleepy Verona, MO, a small town with a dying town square and some buried tragedies. High school senior Quin has been raised on the legend of the long-abandoned Avery Theater's glamorous past and tragic closure. When her adoptive mother, the high school drama teacher, forces the advanced drama class to stage a production of Anything Goes to raise money to revive the Avery, all hell breaks loose and past and present intertwine in a whirlwind of memories, strange happenings, romantic sparks, and flashes of memory. This urgent yet sweetly told tale of history, small-town tragedy, and magic lacks something as a theater story-rehearsals and performances are often skipped in favor of magical denouements and dramatic flashbacks-but the fast pace and slightly eerie writing are appealing. The first-person narrative allows readers to see the world through Quin's caring, wide-open eyes and loving perspective as she works hard to showcase her friends' latent talents and honor her town's history. VERDICT An innocent, hopeful, lightly magical romance, ideal for teens looking for "clean reads" and historical nostalgia.-Katya Schapiro, Brooklyn Public Libraryα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
“Scenes set in the past are rich with authentic voices and period detail, and crisp prose flows easily between the past and the present. A tale of love, family, and friendship, tailor-made for readers who believe in the mystery and magic of the theater.” (Kirkus)
“Rooted in magic realism, this sweet story faintly echoes Romeo and Juliet as it explores what it means to be a survivor, a bystander, and a member of a small community. Schindler’s story casts a shimmering spell.” (Booklist)
“An innocent, hopeful, lightly magical romance, ideal for teens looking for “clean reads” and historical nostalgia.” (School Library Journal)
Top customer reviews
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Quick & Dirty: This is an adorable magical realism novel that is ultimately a love letter to the theater.
Opening Sentence: When I dream, it’s always on a screen.
Going into this book, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. The premise sounded intriguing but contemporary novels are usually hit or miss with me. However, this one was the perfect mix of contemporary and magical realism. Plus, there wasn’t a romance for the main character, which was different and refreshing.
This story combined mystery, romance, and high school to create an engaging tale. After setting the stage through an introduction to the town, the history of the Avery, and introducing the main characters, the story begins when the drama teacher, who also happens to be Quin’s mom, announces that the senior project will be the play Anything Goes. From there, this coming of age tale shows how people can find themselves, sometimes in the unlikeliest of ways (and with the help of a little magic). The author manages to truly capture the essence of small-town life.
There were definite Romeo and Juliet influences on this story and they worked out surprisingly well. I was a little unclear on how Cass and Dylan, the main romantic couple, were star-crossed but I loved Emma and Nick’s story. Told in bits and pieces through flashbacks, the mystery of who they were and what happened the night they died kept me interested throughout the entire novel. Each new flashback peeled back an additional layer or showed another dimension of the story. I actually felt as if this story-telling style allowed me to understand this story within the story at a deeper level than if the author had just told it from beginning to end.
I enjoyed the part of the story that was set in the modern day as well. Quin, Cass, and Dylan were all likable characters and it was a joy to watch them grow throughout the novel. However, I wasn’t a huge fan of the fact that Cass and Dylan flourished mostly when their flaws were taken away. I understand what the author was aiming for but I wish that both characters exhibited the same confidence and self-assuredness while encompassed by the Avery’s magic in the outside world. I would have liked them to succeed because they fully accepted themselves and each other. Other than that, I really enjoyed the characters and the story, particularly the ending.
Ultimately, this was a love letter to the magic of the theater. This was also an adorable, quick read that would be perfect for summer (or if you need a reminder to look for the magic in everyday life).
And suddenly, I’m thinking of that bedtime story—the one that has followed me into my dreams for years. I’m remembering Mom telling me that the Avery died. On the night of Emma’s and Nick’s tragic ending. I remember her reciting what Bertie’d told her that night: When the right hearts come to the Avery . . . the Avery will come back from the dead.
It’s true. The Avery’s heart is beating. The theater is breathing.
The Avery’s alive.
I swivel the beam of my flashlight toward the stage, where I no longer see the old half-fallen set, but pristine velvet curtains. Panting in a kind of confused anticipation, I stare as the curtains slowly part. A projector pops to life behind me, washing a bright light across a movie screen. Bold, black letters hover, announcing that the scene about to play takes place on June 4, 1947. And the sound of a train whistle fills the theater.
FTC Advisory: HarperTeen provided me with a copy of Spark. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
I loved SPARK! I love old buildings that have personalities of their own, underdogs that save the day, and pasts colliding with the present. All of those elements make up the story in Spark and it was magical for me! The cast of characters was great! The Avery theater(because yes, this theater is a character unto itself!) brought life back to the town of Verona after it's spark seemed to go out. Quin and her connection to the past and her glimpses into the tragedy that caused the Avery to close. Quin's friends Cass, with her unsightly birthmark, and Dylan with his impossible stutter and even Quin's mom who was a part of the past, all were perfectly portrayed and endearing. I enjoyed every moment of the story and highly recommend it!
Spark, by Holly Schindler. I love the title. It encapsulates the story in many ways. And the cover is magical, just like the story inside. As far as YA novels go, Spark is definitely different, unique and fantastic. The setting, placed in the past and present was wonderful and well-done. The characters were developed and deep. And the magic was, well, absolutely magical.
The story is of two romances, past and present. Their stories are parallel in every way, except, thankfully, for the ending of the one in the past. Several key characters present in the past are also paralleled in the present, one of which is the main character, paralleled to her great-grandmother, the eccentric Bertie who foretold much of the story. The romance of the present, featuring Cass and Dylan, is intended to right the wrongs that were committed in the first, bringing a once-in-forever kind of love to the theater.
A person would think, given the situation, that the narrator and main character of the story would be the one in the epic, once-in-forever relationship. But it is actually Quin’s best friend in the relationship. This, in my opinion, is probably the most unique and well-done part of the story: the narrator is not the main character. Quin is the observer and collector of facts. She knows more than anyone what is going on with the Avery, the past, and the present. She orchestrates as much as she can, but she is neither the person in the relationship or the true mastermind of the situation. Yet Quin is genuine with a part to play. The author pulled off this wacky narration expertly. I cannot begin to express how epic I believe this book is because of the way Holly Schindler narrated this book! It is truly astounding, and I applaud her.
I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy YA novels with a little bit of romance, history, and theater mixed in.
I received a free copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.