A Kind of Spark is a preteen novel written by Scottish autistic author Elle McNicoll. It is effortlessly stirring with an unshakeable voice. Published in 2021 by Audible Studios, the unabridged audiobook was narrated by Emma Tracey and has a running time of 4 hours 25 minutes. A Kind of Spark was awarded the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize of 2021.
As an autistic girl Adeleine or ‘Addy’ for short is used to being misunderstood, much like the women she’s learning about at school, women who centuries ago were wrongfully accused of being witches. Unhappy that there is no memorial to remember these women by in her small Scottish town, Juniper, Addy starts a campaign to erect one, despite much opposition on account of her neurodivergence.
A Kind of Spark is one of the most powerfully crafted juvenile fiction novels I’ve read in a long time. I thought everything from the characterisation to the setting was executed with a lot of depth. Its insight into neurodivergence was informative in a way that doesn’t compromise on the storytelling and practically addresses the still ubiquitous ignorance of society today concerning autism.
Addy is a lovable protagonist who is fighting for a feminist cause whilst at the same time learning how to navigate a biased education system. She is often treated as though she can’t do things or that she’s too much of a disruption at school but her compelling sense of determination despite this negativity was enjoyable to read. It was also heartening to read about the relationship that Addy shares with her older sister, Kady, who is also autistic.
Kady is always on hand to provide support and encouragement to her younger sister even though she struggles to assimilate into the neurotypical spaces around her i.e. university. This moving sisterly bond not only enriched the story but also highlighted the extent to which autistic individuals are constantly pressured to conform to neurotypical “norms.”
Listening to the audiobook was an exciting experience given the slightly dramatised nature of it. Emma Tracey’s narration complemented the story and fully embodied each character. The running time is just over 4 hours long which is perfect for audiobook newbies or for those looking for a quick read. But given how much I enjoyed this story, it felt like it ended too soon, not in a bad, underdeveloped way but a ‘I was enjoying this so much, I’m sad its over’ kind of way. And to top it off the ending was brilliantly uplifting.