Welcome to my stop on the Stray by Rachael Craw blog tour organized by Walker Books Australia.
IF you have been reading my blog then you are probably aware just how big a fan I am of Rachael and her Spark series. The first book Spark was released mid-2014 and has generated much attention in the YA book world. A mixture of altered DNA, genetically enhanced super warriors in a modern real world setting. There’s action and adventure with a splash of romance for good measure. You can read my review here.
I am seven kinds of excited to share with you a guest post by Rachael (complete with gifs!) talking about an authors intentions versus the reader’s expectations. It’s such a fun read. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.
Also keep reading until the end of the post for my review of Stray! (spoiler alert: I loved it!)
Intention vs Expectation by Rachael Craw
Imagine my shock the first time I received a review in which a reader despised my protagonist. O_O … Stop. The. Bus. … I’m sorry … you what? You hate Evie? How is that even physically possible? <cue tragic soul searching … questions fabric of reality/meaning of life/space time continuum … gazes so deeply into navel manages to twist self into a pretzel>. Okay, I’m exaggerating. Thankfully in a year of fairly heart-warming reviews I’ve only had a couple who took the time to express their loathing (may others forever lack such forthrightness). While I may not have been reduced to rubble it certainly took me by surprise. The idea was so outside the realm of possibility in my head I had to look hard at my character and ask, really? This can happen?
Clearly, I was naïve. Clearly, I am so in love with my characters I expect their flaws to be forgivable, their mistakes to be understood, their lapses in judgment to be read within a context of grace and mercy. I imagine all my readers come to the story with my understanding of character motivations, fears, values. Or at least I imagine what I have painted in the story will enable them to reach that understanding. Therefore I am taken by surprise when they don’t. I have had moments where I’ve thought if I could sit down with this or that person and gently point out to them in the story where it explains why Evie does what she does that will clear it all up. They’ll say, “ … oh! I get it. I was wrong, Evie’s great.” That way lies the path of madness.
Peace for the review-shocked author comes in accepting that every reader brings their own filter to a book. Every reader engages with a story/character/world in their own way. This is completely out of the writer’s control but sometimes the misfire occurs where reader expectations and authorial intentions have failed to align. There have been readers who disapproved of Evie and Jamie being too pretty, people who’ve been cross that the story was set in America, others who were expecting canon sci-fi and were repelled to discover a love story. Still others thought the cover implied the story would be darker but it turned out to be candyfloss, people who were upset by all the world building, people who felt there wasn’t enough world building to make the plot of genetic manipulation believable. Some feel the story is too slow, others felt overwhelmed there wasn’t a moment to draw breath.
For my part the answers to these questions seem blindingly obvious. I know exactly why Evie and Jamie were designed to be ridiculously attractive in the mercenary world of the Affinity Project, why the story is set in America (for reasons that have nothing to do with marketing), that I wanted to explore the hero archetype inside a fantastical premise set against a 3-strand love story (parent/child, friendship, first love), how I use humour to break tension, how I needed every element to the sci-fi premise to be water-tight, that I write in detail to make the story visceral and urgent. Sometimes I win. Sometimes I don’t.
At the end of the day, attempting to explain away what has failed for the reader is an exercise in futility and benefits nobody. If the text itself wasn’t enough, sitting down to explain it is a waste of time. It’s like explaining a joke – it doesn’t make the punchline funnier. Either the joke wasn’t funny, or the delivery was off, or the audience wasn’t in the mood, or the audience finds it offensive – explaining won’t make it better. Also, it’s kind of an insult to a reader’s intelligence and their right to respond however they damn well please. It’s as useful as trying to convince someone to love a piece of music they have no taste for when the melody grates their nerves.
Suffice to say, let everyone think what they want to think and say what they want to say. Love, hate, indifference, every perspective is valid. (But Evie is awesome and if you don’t agree, remember it’s okay to be wrong and I won’t think less of you.)
IF you want to check out more reviews, guest posts, interviews with Rachael Craw and other fantastic Stray-ness – be sure to check out other stops on the #Stray blog tour!
Also Rachael has started a mailing list for anyone wanting to keep in touch with Rachael and all things Spark: http://rachaelcraw.com/subscribe/
Stray Blog Tour
Happy Indulgence | Diva Book Nerd
Behind the Pages | Cassie the Weird | YA Midnight Reads
Liz McShane Blog | Imaginary Misadventure
Fictional Thoughts | Genie in a Book
Kids Book Review | Books for a Delicate Eternity | Nicole Has Read
Loony Literate | Book Nerd Reviews
Striking Keys | Very Dark Horse
Stray by Rachael Craw
(Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)
Published by Walker Books, Limited on September 1st 2015
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fiction, Suspense, Young Adult
Click here to buy the book from Amazon •Booktopia • Book Depository • Angus and Robertson
It’s hard to remember hating anything as much as I hate Affinity; a bone-deep loathing for the faceless unknown and the concrete walls of my own DNA.
Evie is a Shield: designed to kill in order to protect, and the Affinity Project have finally come for her. But Evie isn’t ready for the sinister organisation to take control of her life, her body, her mind. She isn’t ready to follow their rules about who may live and who must die – not when it condemns the innocent. She has one option: risk losing everything and everyone – including Jamie – and run.
After anticipating the release of Stray for so long I was anxious to see if it would meet my rather high expectations.
Truth is it doesn’t meet them – it exceeds them in every way possible.
Spark ended with Evie starting a relationship with Jamie, neutralizing the threat against Kitty and generally being a bit of a bad-arse. So where does a story with such a strong beginning go from here?
To a fancy dress party of course!
Craw does a fantastic job at combining the futuristic DNA altered superhuman storyline with the real life Evie tries to maintain. For all her specialness, she is still a teenage girl with many of the same pressures and issues teens face. There’s family drama (although Evie’s family is anything but traditional), boyfriend problems and balancing her new life as a super protector with being a good friend.
And there’s the fast paced action and adventure I loved from the first novel. Stray will keep you guessing just what will happen right up until the end.
One of the things I like most about Stray (and this series in general) is the action and reactions. Evie is not someone who will just sit around when someone she cares about is in trouble. She will do what she thinks is necessary even if it’s dangerous and will land her in trouble. And what’s what I like – there are consequences. Some books you read and it seems that as long as the hero/heroine saves the day then all is forgotten. Not the case for Evie. Her actions all have a cost. After the events in Spark, Affinity are on the scene and Evie is forced to face up to her actions. I loved reading about the somewhat shady Affinity and how their organization works.
Evie’s relationships evolve in Stray. She’s still coming to terms with the secret about her mother and how to deal with her identity. Other members of her family cause Evie much emotional turmoil and it is interesting to see just how Evie deals with it all. I love her interactions with Kitty. Despite everything that has changed in Evie’s life I like that Kitty remains strong as her BFF and encourages Evie to maintain a somewhat typical teenage existence.
And then there’s Jamie. Okay, so I still have issues with his name but I have to admit I adore the boy. He’s a great match for Evie and not just because of their connection on a purely genetic level. Their relationship was a pleasure to read and not just because of the romance. There is romance but there’s also so much more. Their relationship hasn’t changed them as people nor has it fixed all which is wrong with their world. The fact that everything isn’t just sunshine and rainbows because they kissed adds to the realism in this book.
I liked Spark but I absolutely LOVED Stray. This is a series which keeps getting better with each instalment. The characters evolve and the plot gets more exciting with each chapter. After reading this book I can say I’m definitely a lifelong Rachael Craw fan and I can’t wait for the release of Shield (Spark #3).
Many thanks to Walker Books Australia for the review copy