Author: Anita Felicelli
Publisher: Henflower Press
Published: July 11 2012
Source: Received from author
in exchange for an honest review
Read: September 17-19 2012
In A Few Words: Dark and Twisty
My Rating: 4 Stars
Goodreads: Add This Book to Your TBR shelf
When the mythology that barely holds her family together unravels, Julie is driven to the edge of unreality. Meanwhile, the limits of her sister and father's empathy are tested. Beautiful,unusual language sweeps readers into the consciousness and experiences of ordinary people struggling with what it means to be perceived as "normal" today and the consequences of cultural alienation.
Lyrical and provocative, "Sparks Off You" is a coming of age novel that follows an Indian-American girl trying to find herself as an artist in the Bay Area at the dawn of the tech boom.
This book holds up very well, and is very well written. It is dark, and twisty, full of pain, sorrow, searching, experimenting, and madness. That being said, it is slightly predictable at times, which is why it didn't get the full five stars from me. Nonetheless, it is a very good book.
The story explores the lives of Julie and Maya, two very bright, if somewhat troubled girls. Their mother has passed away, and their father is distant, more focused on his work than he is on them. Both Julie and Maya are very smart, Julie has skipped a few grades in school, so she is a bit younger than her classmates, and this shows through in her personality and the way that she interacts with them.
Julie is a very complex character, she's innocent, in a way, but there's something different about her. She knows it, and so do the people around her. She seems to feel things a lot more intensely than others do and it shows. There's one scene in particular where she is upset because she thinks that a boy she likes is more interested in her friend, and she wants him to be interested in her. She starts kicking a graveyard wall and keeps kicking until her feet start to bleed. It's a very powerful scene and you can tell that there's something really dark about Julie, even though she seems innocent.
It's actually quite interesting to look at the progression of the two sisters over the course of the book. At first Maya is the reckless and rowdy one, smoking pot, having sex with her boyfriends, driving crazily, and Julie is the meek, timid, "good girl. Then as the book goes on, they flip positions. Julie descends into drugs and sex, and Maya takes the more straightforward path. One thing I didn't like about all this is that Maya has no compassion for what happens to Julie. (I can't expand on what happens because it gives too much away, but lets just say that it's intense.) Maya plays the victim and the poor me card talking about how she had to take care of Julie all those years and this is what happens and on and on. Then she tells Julie to just get over what's happened to her and stop pretending that she's sick, basically. It's obvious that she has a real problem, but Maya refuses to acknowledge that.
It's similar to how her father feels about what happens to Julie. He doesn't want to believe there's anything wrong. But, once he does realize that there's something there that needs to be dealt with, he is supportive in his own way and doesn't brush her off in the same way that Maya does. I liked Maya a lot less after the things she said and her actions toward Julie being sick.
There is a lot of great imagery in this book. It's mainly explored through Julie's paintings, and some strange drug trips, too. The colors are bright and vivid, and the descriptions take you right to the pictures in your mind's eye. I also appreciated the part where Ram tries his hand at painting in an effort to understand Julie and as a way of welcoming her back.
I don't often talk about covers of books, but I have to mention that I don't feel the connection of this cover to the story. Maybe there was a line, or a subtle hint that I missed somewhere in the story, but it just doesn't quite seem to fit. Neither does the title, for me anyway. But, that's just my thought on it. I've read some great books with titles and covers I didn't really feel a connection to, and that just seems to be the case here.
It's definitely an adventure through the teenage mind, filled with longing, experimentation, searching, rebellion, struggle, and a bit of madness.
*I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.*