International Writers Magazine
by Harry Edge
Publisher: Hodder childrens books
by Callum Graham
a citywide water assassination game, with more at risk than just
a place in the final, adults and teens run amok with everything
to play for, under the watchful eye of the game keeper, a man as
mysterious as the game itself. Harry edges intriguing teen novel
Spray will have your eyes gripped to the text with one
hand firmly on your super soaker.
Set on the backdrop
of a city experiencing a water shortage caused by a hot summer the book
focuses around nine main characters, all teenagers. Han an illegal entrant
at the age of 15 has ulterior motives for joining the game. Shell, Maiko
and Joe are university students who for numerous reasons find themselves
embroiled in the action. Mac, a burger bar worker with a mysterious
past, travels from spray game to spray game in search of a win. Zed,
a student nurse, sees the game as a way of becoming closer to her boyfriend.
Rik, an IT technician works at the university. Jen is a school student
who gets sucked into the game, but is she what she appears to be? And
of course the allusive gamekeeper who runs spray and whose
identity is a mystery. There are also some more adult opponents that
pop up in the narrative, such as the infamous Zorro. As the game contracts
to the few remaining players, those who have been knocked out strive
to help others to win.
Spray is an easy read with very short chapters of about two pages, each
one focusing on an individual character. This helps to keep a track
of the plot but also keeps the action alive by jumping smoothly from
one event to the next, helpfully condensing the three week period of
the game. The book is a blend of action, suspense and teen romance that
leaves the reader at once compelled to read on. Some teen readers may
even learn something of life from the experience.
The book is easily relatable, mixing common life events with the more
fantastical elements of the water game. I am not sure how believable
it is that a wealthy adult businessman would find the time to indulge
in a cross-city water fight, but I dont think this matters. Once
I had suspended disbelief this page turner had me working slowly towards
the edge of my seat.
Spray cleverly side steps the possible drudgery of reading
one water soaking after another by focusing on the tactics of the players.
Although by the mid point of the book this seems to mainly involve lying
in wait outside various places of work, it gives the audience a chance
to breathe whilst letting the author indulge in the personal relationships
of the characters. There is a sense of the personal journey of each
of the characters and the goals which they hope to achieve. These might
be as simple as winning the game or as complex as finding a lost brother.
However, some of these side stories begin to spiral at an unforeseen
tangent and I was disappointed by the endings abruptness after the plot
had been so expertly weaved to the grand finale. This left me some what
dissatisfied by the end of the book.
Over all the book was an exciting read, with just the right amount of
characterisation and action. However I feel it was let down by the ending
which did not do the rest of the book justice. Definitely worth a read.
© Callum Graham
callum.graham at btinternet.com>
Callum is studying creative writing at the University of Portsmouth
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