'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Wednesday 21 September 2022

Review: A Little Spark

A Little Spark is a delightful book that is warm and heartbreaking at the same time. It is about growing up, relationships and family.

Caitlyn Carson is a 13-year-old girl who lives an ordinary life and loves writing. Her parents are split, and she lives with her mum and her mum’s partner, Sam. Every second weekend she goes to her dad’s place and they do some incredible and imaginative things.

Cate has a great relationship with both her parents, but she likes to keep her worlds apart. ‘I don't tell Mum and Sam anything about my weekends with Dad. It would be giving them tickets into that world. The world Dad and I have created.’

She also has a fantastic best friend Elise, and the two are inseparable. Her life is going along great and she is following her dreams of becoming a writer (and even wins a prestigious award!).

But things start to take a turn when Sam, her mum’s partner, gets a job offer that is too good to turn down and means they might all have to move to London.

Cate doesn’t know if she wants to go to London – it would mean leaving her dad and best friend behind. If she doesn’t go, her mum and Sam won’t go to London, and maybe they will end up resenting her, or splitting up. It’s an impossible decision and Cate feels like her life is spinning out of control, and that she has no choice that is her own. Her life starts to fall apart even more when a fun game her dad organises turns dangerous.

This book is fantastic, I seriously loved it. It is imaginative and has great pacing – I was glued to the pages. It is extremely relatable as it is about growing up between families and having to make big choices as a kid.

I loved that the split parents didn’t fall into the same clichés as a lot of other books and Hollywood films, where the parents hate each other and use the child against each other. Cate’s parents are grown ups and you can see the respect they have for each other, and I found that incredibly refreshing.

The complex and yet fun relationships in this book are what make it stand out, particularly between Cate and her dad. Her dad is bandit-Blueys-dad brilliant. Their weekends together are full of magic and UFOs and unicorns - they boost Cate’s imagination and influence her writing. Her dad organises miracles to happen to her and they have a gorgeous relationship that feels alive as it develops through the book.

I also like that the author, Barry Jonsberg, didn’t fall into the trap of then making the mum the naggy boring one, although they do discuss that the mum has to do the boring stuff sometimes.

Cate's best friend Elise is a fantastic side character with all of her own happiness and challenges and goals. The dialogue between the two is ace and felt incredibly authentic for 13-year-old girls.

The story is fast paced, with some surprising dramas and plot points that made me want to keep reading to see how the characters would cope. It is so spot on for its audience. I just loved this magical deep heartfelt book, I actually didn’t want it to end. I teared up a few times too and I really felt for Cate, who had some huge impossible decisions on her shoulders and the feeling that her life is out of her control is so founded, it made it all feel so real.

A Little Spark is beautifully written with some great memorable lines. It is perfect for the age group, and is inspiring, funny, but is also pretty sad too. It is about being true to yourself, having fun and holding on to what makes you special.

Title: A Little Spark
Author: Barry Jonsberg
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, $16.99
Publication Date: 2 August 2022
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781760526924
For ages: 10+
Type: Middle grade