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The International Writers Magazine Young Fiction:

Spray by Harry Edge
Publisher: Hodder children’s books
ISBN: 978-0-340-95614-4
Reviewed by Callum Graham

In 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 don’t 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 Oct 2008
callum.graham at>
Callum is studying creative writing at the University of Portsmouth
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