Sci-Fi YA Reviews: Shield and Special

October 9, 2016 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 2 stars, 3 stars, Books, Reviews

Sci-Fi YA Reviews: Shield and SpecialShield by Rachael Craw
Series: Spark #3
Published by Walker Books Australia on September 1st 2016
Source: Publisher
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction
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"This is the Affinity Project - where freewill is turned to ash."
Evie is out of options. She must comply with the Affinity Project – obey their rules, play their deadly games, give up Jamie. And her losses keep growing...
When she decides to help a small group of Shields trying to affect change, Evie finds herself in the firing line. Counsellor Knox is intent on revealing her secrets and shackling her to the Affinity Project for life. To protect her family, Evie must betray those closest to her.
The odds of success – let alone survival – are slim.
The final thrilling conclusion to the Spark series.

You know when you’re struggling towards a goal, but endless roadblocks are thrown in the way? That has been Evie’s journey throughout the Spark series.

The biggest blockades to her living the life she wants, are the people who make up the Affinity Project. Being a genetically enhanced weapon, Evie is constantly pulled from pillar to post. Everyone acts like they have a say in what she wants to do and who she wants to be, and I was quite annoyed at the adults in the novel at times. In Shield, there’s Knox who wants to breed her for his own science project, and others who want to protect and observe her skills. Can we just let her make her own decisions?

From the young teenager we met in Spark to the strong, resilient woman that we see today, I loved Evie’s character development throughout the series. Shield gives her some defining moments, where she acts on her own instinct much to others’ dismay. I was thankful for her journey throughout the series, where she demonstrates her strength, courage and leadership against all odds.


After reading and loving Spark and Stray, the first 2 books in the series, I actually struggled quite a bit with Shield. Blame it on my bookish amnesia, I actually couldn’t remember a lot of the more scientific concepts behind the DNA manipulation and the Affinity Project. With concepts such as the KMT , synergist connections, de-activations, sparks, proxies and coolers being used throughout the book, not much is recapped or explained again. It builds upon prior knowledge that the reader has gained from following the series, with more concepts being thrown in and expanded uponWhile the first book felt a bit info-dumpy with the genetic mutation, I felt Shield went the other way and could’ve fared with with more recapping or explanation of what these concepts were.

Much of the fun and friendship with Kitty was missed in this book, along with the motherly protection of Miriam and even Jamie’s flirtatious passes. Things are a lot more serious this time around, as Evie is dealing with grief and being separated from her loved ones. There’s a lot of angst and jealousy here, over the ‘other girl’ Helena, and there’s definitely a lot to work out between Evie, Jamie and Helena. I was thankful for Davis, a handsome and caring friend who helps Evie through some of her tougher times in the novel, given everything else that was happening.

This is the Affinity Project – where free will is turned to ash.

As Evie discovers the origins of her makeup and the multiple goals behind the Affinity Project, there’s a lot of secrets and reveals in the novel. The plot is complex and mind-boggling with no single focus.


Shield is a complex exploration into the effects of DNA manipulation for science and power. With the absence of some of Evie’s loved ones, it felt darker and heavier than previous books. There are some great defining moments in the book however, and Evie proves to be a brilliant role model for someone escaping her circumstances. Because some of the scientific concepts went over my head, I think re-reading or reading these books consecutively would help with it’s complexity.

Rating: 3 out of 5


Thanks Walker Books Australia for sending me a review copy! 

Sci-Fi YA Reviews: Shield and SpecialSpecial by Georgia Blain
Published by Random House Australia on March 28th 2016
Source: Publisher
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction
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A breathtaking glimpse into our future from the acclaimed author of Darkwater.
I am not Delia Greene. I should not be here. Why haven't they come for me?
Alone in my room, I log onto the Wastelands, the data dump where anonymity is guaranteed, where people go to throw their unfilled hopes and dreams, their despair, their pain, their loneliness, a great tangle and mess of words that cannot be unravelled, and I start to tell this story. The names are changed. So are the locations. As for the rest? It is up to you to choose what you want to believe . . .
Special is a beautifully crafted and atmospheric YA novel set in the not-too-distant future, where corporations control everyone's lives from their DNA to their schooling and career. Where a Lotto Girl – designed from before birth to be Special in every way – can escape the slums and be given every opportunity to shine at an exclusive boarding school. Where the future is bright. Until it all goes wrong . . .

Special explores a harrowing future owned by corporations, where the rich and the privileged can custom design their children using DNA manipulation. BioPerfect construct children based on specific traits, intelligence, charisma and good looks. But to save from everyone looking exactly the same, these people have designs based on their preferred jobs – for example, Fern has been constructed to be perfect for communications. She’s naturally creative, a great communicator and interacts well with people. It was fascinating learning how each person’s design had been put together, although it’s definitely been done before.

I especially liked the design for Miss Margaret, the teacher who has been designed to be the ultimate carer for the kids at Halston. She’s clear, compassionate, great with children, and even her body type is comforting and apparently she smells like baked bread. What could be more comforting than that? She’s also able to withstand illnesses better than most people.

“Brilliant – that’s what you are. A bursting golden ray of brilliance.”

Everyone who has been designed by BioPerfect has to eat their food, be educated in their top class facilities and learn only what they are approved to learn. As a Lotto Girl, someone who was given the chance to be designed from a less privileged family, Fern has a bit of a complex when it comes to her circumstances. After being redirected to ReCorp, which is typically where the defective designs go, she wants to know how she ended up there and questions her circumstances.

I was really sucked into the book at the start, as it’s atmospheric and haunting seeing a future completely owned by corporations. The depths they have gone to make a profit is often questionable, as they’re dealing with human lives. However, unlike most other dystopians, there was no action or strong plot or end goal to keep me entertained. Halfway through, Fern is still describing her circumstances and repeating just how special she and the other Lotto Girls are. She repeats this over and over again and I found myself rather bored at times, wanting to get to the point of the story.

Why do I need to be special, and why was any sense of being special so dependent on BioPerfect?

Unfortunately, it never really got there, with the ending left open. There was a twist towards the end of the book which I didn’t see coming.

As the book jumps between the past and the present, I also found the pacing of the book to be quite difficult to get into as the reader has to work out for themselves what is happening in the story. Often, quite a few events would happen in retrospect, to be brought up by Fern in a following chapter. Because of this, I found it quite hard to follow while reading.


Special is a complex and pensive exploration into DNA manipulation, a future owned by corporations and the sociological experiment of BioPerfect people designed by corporations. It explores the nature versus nurture debate, and some philosophical thoughts on science and profit making. While there was an interesting concept, the pacing issues, flat characters and lack of plot didn’t bode well for the rest of the book. I found it quite boring at times and was left unsatisfied at the open ending.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5


Thanks to Random House Australia for sending me this review copy! 


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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Tiktok@happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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8 responses to “Sci-Fi YA Reviews: Shield and Special

  1. Oh, no! I'm so sorry you didn't love Shield, Jeann! Luckily enough, I remembered almost all of the Stray trilogy specific terminology and genetics, so I didn't feel lost when it was all brought up again. I would have loved to re-read the first two books anyway, because I feel like this trilogy would pack such a punch when read altogether.

    I really did like Evie's character growth from the first book to this one, and I'm glad you did, too!

    Maybe one day you can re-read the series together 🙂 Lovely review, Jeann!

    • Yeah, it was a head hurter for me unfortunately, especially with even more new concepts being introduced at that time. It would be awesome read one after the other I think! Evie was such a great strong character. Thank you Chiara!

  2. Davis! I loved him in Shield, which really surprised me. I actually preferred him over Jamie. I love Evie's character and couldn't agree more Jeann, her transformation from the girl who lost everything when she lost her mother, to the strong and fierce woman she began. The transformation was brilliant and I loved her journey.

    I haven't heard of Special before, the concept sounds brilliant but poorly executed unfortunately. The world owned b corporations is probably frightfully realistic, the greed and consumerism now is mind boggling and in the not too distant future, I'd hate to see what the world will become. Even now, they are experimenting with DNA and embryos, able to add the DNA of a third party to potentially stamp out heredity illness and disease. Part of me wants nothing more than for parents to be blessed with healthy babies, but it's a very fine line between DNA manipulation for heath reasons and designer babies playing God.

    I'm totally soapboxing now.

    Wonderful reviews Jeann, I'm thrilled to see you reading scifi <3
    My recent post Shield

    • I know, Davis was such a great alternative and I felt like Jamie had kind of lost his spark by the 2nd book. Evie was such a strong character and I loved her journey across the three novels. I was actually thinking that you might be interested in Special, it seems to be up your alley being a dystopian and all. Lol love your soapboxes Kelly!

  3. I hate it when a good series gets darker but doesn't keep the good parts from the previous books! It can't be all doom and gloom.

    That's too bad about Special. I'm usually not a fan of time jumps. There has to be a good reason behind it.

    • Yeah, it felt like such a different direction from the previous books, I sorely missed some of the characters. Special was an interesting book but just not for me unfortunately, it was just so patchy.

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