According to the good folks at The American Heritage Dictionary, a spark is “an incandescent particle,” “a glistening particle of something, as metal,” or “a flash of light; especially, a flash produced by electric discharge.” But according to Emma and Tim, two high school misfits in Des Moines, Iowa, a spark is the “spark of blue” that everyone has inside of them , given by Blueda, visible only to those practicing Bluedaism, and capable of creating amazing things if it encounters a complementary spark of blue in someone else. This made-up religion of the two best friends is the fulcrum of the novel and the result of both of their decisions to kick destructive habits (eating disorders for Emma and drinking for Tom).
A shy teen, Debbie Woodlawn (and her religion) is the complete opposite of Emma and Tom. Since middle school, she has attended Active Christian Teens with her best friend, Lisa, a conservative Christian. And she’s also watched hour upon hour of Full House reruns with her, eaten with her, hung out with her, watched movies with her . . . and pretended to like boys with her.
Actually, Debbie has secretly harbored a painful crush on Lisa for years, pretending to believe everything they tell her in Active Christian Teens meetings, pretending to like Full House, and hiding her real beliefs and preferences just so she can be around Lisa. When Lisa begins dating the most boring guy in school, Debbie is distraught. But then Emma and Tom step in, inviting Debbie on a $5 holy quest―an introduction to Bluedaism. From the beginning of the quest onwards, Sparks is a roller coaster ride. Everything imaginable happens, from meeting bowling alley skanks and praying, to naked angels on tricycles.
If any of this sounds fun, that’s because it is. Sparks is, quite simply, a fun read. The trio of Bluedists go on side trips and adventures on their way to helping Debbie express her love for Lisa, and each one is more ridiculous than the last. This book is definitely a page turner, if only because you want to read what incredibly crazy thing Debbie, Emma, and Tom are going to do next. And you’ll definitely know what they’re doing, because S.J. Adams’s descriptions are so vivid and precise it feels like you’re reading in Technicolor. The plot is so fast-paced and surprising that even if you know how the story’s going to end up, you’re willing to suspend disbelief and go along for the ride.
And by chapter three, you will pretty much know how the story’s going to end up. Sure, there are some minor hiccups along the way, but for the most part, the plot follows the typical young adult hero template. Except this time it’s not a young girl during the Holocaust or an Indian student attending Harvard, but a teenaged lesbian in love with her best friend.
Basically, don’t look to Sparks to stir up deep thoughts. First off, books aren’t the best tools for stirring (I’d suggest a spoon), and secondly, it’s not going to challenge any of your assumptions, broaden any of your horizons, or rock any of your socks. What I can guarantee it will do is make you laugh―and kind of want to go on a holy Bluedist quest yourself. So grab Sparks if you’re headed for the beach or a long plane ride, and revel in irreverence.
Meredith Hilton hails from Washington, DC during the school year (in the summer, her location is pretty much up to chance). On any given day you can find her online, being artsy, in the library, or surreptitiously writing poetry during math class.