Stray is the sequel to Spark and is the second book in a young adult science fiction trilogy by New Zealand author Rachael Craw.
Stray follows on from where Spark finished. Evie is a Shield: designed to kill in order to protect, but now the Affinity Project have finally come for her as she always feared. Evie is studied, tested on, and lectured on what she can and can’t do. She longs for her boyfriend Jamie and she’s desperate to prove that her brother Aidan is innocent and to clear his name.
The strongest part of this book – and the whole series – is the relationship between Evie and her friends and family. There is wit and humour present in this book, even amongst scenes filled with tension or horror. Kitty is a wonderful character and her and Evie really complement each other well in a scene.
Spark, the first book in the trilogy, felt like it contained a fair bit of info dumping, especially about the world and the technology and the history of Evie’s family. However, in Stray, information was woven into the story seamlessly, with well-written integration and easy-to-understand explanations. I thoroughly enjoyed this book more than Spark, and felt the plot progressed quicker and it was more of an exciting read.
The only negative I have about this book, and it’s slightly nitpicking, is Jamie’s characterisation. I seem to be the only reader who felt he was a little bland, perhaps one dimensional. I felt I couldn’t relate to him or understand him and I doubted Evie and Jamie’s chemistry. Also, there were a few times in the book where I felt like things weren’t explained as clearly as they could’ve and I had to reread certain passages. But this didn’t occur often and events later in the novel usually answered any questions I had.
To anyone who is interested in reading Stray, make sure you’re quite familiar with Spark and have read it – or reread it – recently. When I picked up Stray, it had been a few months since I’d read Spark and I really struggled for the first one hundred pages. That is, until all of the technology and familial relations and problems from the first book came flooding back and I remembered what happened.
I recommend the Spark trilogy to all young adult readers. It’s fast-paced and intriguing and Stray builds upon Spark with lots of action and fighting and danger. More information is uncovered, and more threats become known. Also, Rachel Craw does well to answer some questions for the reader whilst also leaving some things open to make readers eager for book three, Shield.