JL Clayton's A Spark of Magic: Book Review

Charlize (Charlie) starts high school in a new hometown with not one but two hot guys after her. Tru seems the decent sort, of Native American stock. Tru's mother Avani works at an antiques store, and she lays down the novel's mythos through Charlie's encounter with her, and a chat about a stone Charlie finds in the store.

Jace - the offspring of friends of the family from long ago - has preternatural power over Charlie's lustful thoughts, and she tries to call him out on this power. 

The high school and gender dynamics are rendered by Clayton with some serious skill in A Spark of Magic, the tone that of a funny, quirky teen narrator who checks guys out from head to toe with a laddettishly lascivious enthusiasm. She covets girls' wardrobes too, or regards them as poor, sartorially speaking. But Charlie is clumsy, carrying as far to her first-person description.

The versatility of the dialogue occasionally includes passages of interior monologuing, breaking up lines of speech. Later, speech is occasionally presented in a script form, with colons and adjectives denoting the style of delivery. It's all good, often snappy, alongside even wittier asides.

Clayton perfectly captures difficult teen years, the capricious nature of decision-making, and Charlie's thought processes. A lot of kids lose their s*** if they get a gutterball these days; with Charlie, you can see how it's possible. She is identifiably human with all the teen drama going on too. 

To quote Jack Nicholson's character in As Good As It Gets when asked how he can write women so well, he says "I think of a man and I take away reason and accountability."

This could be said of kids. But neither of these weaknesses are true of Charlie - she over-analyses things, and she seems like a responsible if sometimes hotheaded kid. Clayton has laid down a challenge to her fellow scribes here, to write a young hero or heroine whose brattitude actually makes sense to older readers.

The interplay between characters is both highly sexualised and subtle, spelled-out and nuanced. Even though Charlie might analyse every last thing, there are nevertheless always things that are unsaid that the reader can tease out, or details that await further books in the franchise.

Charlie's love triangle with Tru and Jace is destructive for all parties. She realises the hurt she causes. It's evidence of her likable nature that she's so honest with both guys; less sensitive souls would not show such fidelity to their attractive potential suitors, preferring instead to have their cake and eat it. Even when she chooses her guy, she feels offended by the other guy's hurt feelings, a little broken up herself, and selfish for making the decision in the first place.

Charlie's awkwardness goes beyond pratfalls. It transfers to moments where she thinks about the smart quip, chickens out about saying it, and then adds that it's a crap thing to think.

"I wanted to say: The thought does not compute. The thought does not compute. Yeah, I know, lame."  

If this overcompensation and self-doubt is to dwindle, Charlie may become the wiseacre she'd like to be in the ensuing books of the Chosen Saga, as she learns how to control her powers and develop in confidence. 

She does develop somewhat. We see it - for instance - in a volleyball scene, when Charlie gives a nasty but deserved tongue-lashing to a bully, inspiring more than a little fear in her new friend Dee.

The novel's final quarter or more ends in a series of climaxes, a rite-of-passage for Tru, a birthday celebration, and a taste of what's to come. The book leaves plenty for us to learn in the remainder of the Chosen Saga. You can follow JL Clayton on Twitter and Facebook.

JL Clayton's A Spark of Magic and its sequels are available at Amazon and elsewhere.