Spark by Brigid Kemmerer (review copy) - WARNING! I cannot review this book without spoiling the others in the series. Read no further if you're planning on reading this series and don't want it spoilt for you.
Gabriel Merrick plays with fire. Literally.
Sometimes he can even control it. And sometimes he can't.
Gabriel has always had his brothers to rely on, especially his twin, Nick. But when an arsonist starts wreaking havoc on their town, all the signs point to Gabriel. Only he's not doing it.
And no one seems to believe him. Except a shy sophomore named Layne, a brainiac who dresses in turtlenecks and jeans and keeps him totally off balance. Layne understands family problems, and she understands secrets. She has a few of her own.
Gabriel can't let her guess about his brothers, about his abilities, about the danger that's right at his heels. But there are some risks he can't help taking.
The fuse is lit. . . From Amazon UK
As I loved Storm so much, when I heard Spark was available on NetGalley almost three months before it's released, I jumped on my chance to read it ASAP. Even though I did win a pre-order of Spark when I won Storm, I couldn't wait until it published! And I'm so glad I didn't. Spark is awesome!
Spark had a very different feel to Storm. This time round, due to Bill, Becca's father and the guide from Storm, wanting to keep Becca safe, and Tyler and Seth in jail for assulting Becca, no-one is after the Merrick brothers at the moment. However, if Bill doesn't report back to the Guides, others will come, which means everyone needs to not bring attention to themselves so the Guides don't have reason to come sniffing around. This isn't such a problem for Michale, Chris and Nick who have their elements pretty much readily available, but Fire is a little hard to come by. What comes across better in Spark is how being an Elemental doesn't just mean you can manipulate your element, but you also need it, like we need to breath. Earth, air and water are pretty much everywhere; fire? Not so much. So Gabriel is really struggling to not play with fire. But when a series of arson attacks start cropping up, Gabriel is suspect number one.
I had a bit of trouble with Gabriel in Storm. He's an angry guy and has a very short fuse (pun intended), and his tendency to snap at the drop of a hat was quite scary. In Spark, you get to understand what's behind his anger; a lot of hurt. He's struggling at school, his twin brother doesn't seem to want to know him and is keeping secrets, and no matter what he does, he only seems to end up upsetting people. On top of that, he still heavily blames himself for the death of his parents. He's having some self-esteem issues, feeling worthless and not wanted, and not able to do anything right. And his automatic reaction is to rage. It's really sad being inside his head and seeing exactly how he feels, though it's good to understand. You can't help but want to give him a hug throughout this novel, he really seems to need it. Thankfully, Layne seems to get that.
Layne is a quiet, shy, super smart 15-year-old who doesn't fit in - no, who refuses to fit in. She won't act like or wear the clothes she's supposed to. She has her own secrets and family struggles and because of these things and because of the wonderful, moral, and strong willed person she is - despite coming from complete opposite sides of the spectrum - she understands and gets through to Gabriel like no-one else can, and vice versa. There is amazing chemistry between the two of them, and things do get a little hot but it's all rooted in something much deeper; genuine feelings. And I loved how Gabriel was so, so respectful of Layne and her boundries. When she showed any sign of being uncomfortable, he would immediately stop what he was doing and go back to something safer without any problem at all. I was already falling in love with him a little bit, but those moments sold me. Layne and Gabriel are just perfect to gether, and perfect for each other.
It looks like Brigid Kemmerer has strong feeling towards bullying, because it was a major theme in Spark as well as Storm. Layne is bullied for not fitting in, for being a "loser", and her younger brother Simon is bullied for being a "retard" because he's deaf. He is actually the coolest little dude ever and I want to adopt him! His determination to play basketball despite being deaf is just awe-inspiring, and his desire to be treated just like any other person just makes me so sad, because he's not. The treatment he and Layne have to put up with is absolutely disgusting. I was absolutely seething while reading all they went through. How anyone feels they have the right to treat people like that is beyond me, and it just makes my blood boil. But Gabriel tries his hardest to keep the bullies off their backs, and treats Simon exactly how he should be treated. Simon hero worshipped Gabriel a little anyway for being so great at basketball, but to then have this really cool guy give him the time of day, and try to understand him and talk to him, simon is just over the moon. An you can't help fall in love with Gabriel even more.
Because of the issues he has with his family, there are fewer scenes with all the Merrick brothers compared to Storm. But there are a number of one-on-one scenes with Michael. Gabriel and Michael have always had a very precarious relationship, but Michael often surprises Gabriel by trying to get through to him, as his brother rather than as his guardian, and these moments of almost peace, where the two start to understand each other are just beautiful. It's like watching a wound heal. It's slow progress, but it's getting there, and it's just wonderful. Despite their differences, it's obvious how much they both love each other, it's just sometimes, they both get things wrong. We do see a lot of Hunter in this book though. With Hunter seeming to not judge Gabriel for every out burst, and unlikely friendship blossoms between the two of them, but Gabriel being Gabriel, and considering all that came out about Hunter in Storm, Gabriel never seems to completely trust him at first. But then Hunter was going to kill him in Storm, so you can't really blame him.
The action in this book is quite different from Storm. As I said at the beginning of this review, no-one is after them, so they're not fighting people. Gabriel is fighting fire. These arson attacks aren't just ruining property, they're putting lives at risk, and with the help and encouragement of Hunter, Gabriel decides to try and help. Another thing Spark makes clearer is how the elements seem to have their own awareness, Gabriel oftens talks to fire and it seems to understand and responds, but Gabriel's control leaves much to be desired. It's not as great as it could be, and more than once things get a little close to going disasterous. The fire doesn't want to be controlled, it wasnts Gabriel to play, to help, and ignores his attempts to calm it down. It just goes on a rampage, claiming all in it's path. It's really quite frightening. But who is starting these fires, and why?
Spark is a fantastic novel that really tugs at your heart strings, has you sitting on the edge of your seat, and swooning other all the beautiful moments between Gabriel and Layne, and at every glimpse of the other Merrick brothers! Another amazing story from Kemmerer, and I am SO excited to see what she brings us in Spirit, the third book in the series! One of my favourite series of the year!
Thank you to Kensington Books for the review copy.
Published: 28th August 2012
Publisher: Kensington Books
Buy from Amazon US
Brigid Kemmerer's Website
My other reviews in the series:
Elemental (Elemental Prequel)
Storm (Elemental Book 1)