I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Spark by Brigid Kemmerer
Series: Elemental #2
Published by KTeen on August 22nd 2012
Genres: Paranormal Romance, Young Adult
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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. Because Layne has a few secrets of her own...
I spent a good portion of this book floating somewhere between wanting to punch Gabriel Merrick in the face and wanting to hug him and bake him cookies. Our pyromaniac always has the ability to bring up the most strong feelings due to his personality being so unpredictable. In Storm, I down-right hated him because, let’s be honest, he’s a dick. But somehow in Spark I started feeling differently. Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t love Gabriel, but I don’t hate him anymore either.
Spark reminds me another book I’ve recently that features an anti-hero as its love interest: The Collector. The biggest difference is that Gabriel already has a past for really not being very well-liked in Storm. So he has to overcome a reader’s preconceived notions and I honestly didn’t think I could like this guy, even a little, after his behavior in Storm. Having the story told from his point of view definitely helped the situation. I think if it had been told by another character, it’s possible I would have still be on the fence with this guy. Or driven into a murderous rage.
Other than Gabriel, we are introduced to another character I wasn’t too sure of at first: Layne. In the end, I came out liking her much better than I did Becca from Storm. I know that this book could easily read as The Player meeting The Virgin and changing his ways, because that does happen. That viewpoint is completely valid. But for me, I saw this as something a little more. This isn’t you Edward/Bella situation. Layne is a strong character, albeit flawed, but she does something that other people, specifically girls, usually don’t do when it comes to dealing with him. She challenges him when he’s most vulnerable. And while she does admit early on that she is physically attracted to him, she doesn’t put up with his bullshit…
…or immediately buy into his charm.
In Spark, Gabriel is at a point in his life where he realizes that he and his twin brother, Nick, might not always be together. This becomes even more apparent when a fight leaves them on non-speaking terms for majority of the book. Without his twin by his side, he doesn’t know who he is or what he wants to do with his life beyond high school. He’s pushed his brothers away to the point where they don’t even know how to handle him. To top it all off, he’s struggling in school without Nick’s help. He’s alone.
Gabriel is a character who is used to having everything handed to him. Girls, good grades, sports. He’s never really had to “work” for any of those things the way others have. But with Layne, it’s an experience for him. He needs her help to pass math and ends up spending a lot of time with her. And she doesn’t exactly make it easy for him. What made it interesting for me is how much they had in common personality-wise. They both are guarding secrets from their past, not used to letting anyone get close and both are very lonely. So for me, while Layne was the more unexperienced one when it came to relationships, I never felt any emphasis really place on that as being a reason for Gabriel’s attraction.
And if Storm reminds me of Four Brothers, than Spark is She’s All That, except there’s no bet (another favorite movie of mine, by the way). Layne is the unpopular girl who gets bullied by the other kids and Queen Bee, Taylor (hey, same name as the lead bully from She’s All That). There’s even a scene where Layne is tricked into attending a party and the bullies humiliate her there. There’s no wine being poured down her dress, but she is sexually assaulted (groped by a dude while others get it on camera). I didn’t really care for the part for the same reasons why Becca’s almost rape scene bothered me. I don’t like it used as a plot device. Replace Layne with a male character and it would have been an entirely different prank, but because she is a female, the prank *has* to do with her sexuality in some way. \(-_-)/
Why are all the lead female characters sexually assaulted? First Becca and now Layne. And if they aren’t, then some type of emphasis is placed on their appearance. Becca’s best friend Quinn is regularly teased by Gabriel for being “chubby.” And even Taylor, the bully, is insulted as “looking like a prostitute” by Layne. I’m starting to notice a trend here…
But one really positive thing I can say about Spark is that the writing felt noticeably stronger than Storm. I had no problem adjusting the Kemmerer’s writing style and I enjoyed it much more this time around. The dialogue also was an improvement to me. That’s not to say it was terrible in Storm, but it was funnier in Spark. Gabriel is a bonafide smartass and his personality clearly came in loud and clear. But I just love how there is someone time enough for his little remarks.
“You know,” he said by way of greeting, “the night I caught you with Layne, I called you a future felon. I didn’t realize you’d make good on that prediction so quickly.”
“That night you dragged Layne out of my driveway, I called you an asshole. Guess we were both right.”
“Were you bluffing about getting out?”
Gabriel grabbed the door handle. When he was standing in the grit and rubble of the shoulder, feeling the rain trail down his collar, he hesitated before closing the door. “You know I don’t even have a phone.”
“Would now be a bad time for a joke about smoke signals?”
Truly, it was never a dull moment from Gabriel Merrick’s point of view.
All in all, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Spark considering my reservations of its leading man. But that last 25%! GAH! It’ll be very interesting to see where this story goes next. Very interesting indeed.