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I Belong

Review: Spark by Holly Schindler

Title: Spark

Author: Holly Schindler

Genre: YA Contemporary, Magical Realism

Series: N/A

Publication Date: May 17, 2016

Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages

ISBN-10: 0062220233 (HarperTeen)

ISBN-13: 978-0062220233 (HarperTeen)

Reviewed by: Tara


The local Avery Theater was just a run-down building to Quin—until her mother told her the tragic love story of Nick and Emma that played out on the theater’s stage all those years ago. Quin is convinced it’s the perfect story to rewrite for her drama class, but when she goes searching for more information, she makes a startling discovery—the Avery is rapidly regaining its former splendor and setting the stage for her classmates Dylan and Cass to relive Nick and Emma’s romance. Quin can see the spark between them, but it’s up to her to make sure her friends—and the Avery—can both be saved this time around.

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.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

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).

Notable Scene:

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.

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