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strayWhat: Stray (Spark #2) by Rachael Craw

Who: Walker Books Australia

When: September 1st 2015

How: A copy of this novel was provided by Walker Books Australia for review.

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.




O k a y.


There, I said it. I know almost everyone who reads this series loves him, but I just don’t. And here’s why: there is a fine line between being protective and being controlling, and Jamie completely falls onto the side of controlling. Here are some examples:

He gets all pissy about the fact that Evie drinks a bit of alcohol, and tries to stop her from going to the school dance.

He doesn’t let his sister drink, and completely glares down her date.

He doesn’t trust Evie or Kitty to make responsible, informed decisions on their own, and completely jeopardises others’ safety because of this lack of trust.

Jamie? You don’t own these girls. You don’t have a say in what they do, or who they see, or anything. Every time Jamie would do something like the examples I mentioned above, I would cringe inside, because it’s just not healthy. And the really bad/sad part is that Evie wants him back after he puts her and her brother in danger, and treats her like shit. I was just not a fan of this, because that’s not the kind of reaction a girl should have to the controlling aspects of her boyfriend’s personality.

And beyond that … how about some compassion and empathy for the girl that you supposedly love? Being able to understand her decision to save her brother should mean something to you, especially since you have your own sister than you would no doubt do the same for.

But other than that – I really, really liked Stray. The writing style was on point, and I read this book a lot faster than I had anticipated – gobbling it down whenever I could. I love how engaging and fast-paced it is. It’s wonderful.

Even though Evie doesn’t have the best judgement when it comes to Jamie, she’s pretty independent and badass. She is willing to do whatever it takes to save Aiden, and go against whoever she has to go against to do it. I really loved this aspect of her personality, because it’s just great to see her kicking shit in (literally).

The information about the weird genetic mutation that makes Evie and her brother and Jamie what they are is weaved into this story without any info-dumping, as is the recount of what happened in the previous book. It was all pretty seamless, really. A+

I didn’t really see that ending coming, to be honest, and I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about it. I mean, it was intense and emotional and kind of heartbreaking … but I don’t like heartbreaking things, especially when it involves my favourite character in the book. So my thoughts and feelings on that are still pretty divided.

A lot of characters are introduced, and secrets revealed, and I am really wondering what’s going to happen in the third book. Is the Affinity Project going to close down? Is Evie going to try and take them out? I really want to know, and I hope I can find out soon!

© 2015, Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity. All rights reserved.

rachael craw on creating an authentic voice!

This is one of my chief areas of focus when it comes to developing a character. As a reader if I don’t find the character’s voice believable it disengages me, pulls me out of the world of the story and makes it difficult for me to suspend disbelief and buy in.


My starting point in building Evie’s voice was in identifying what I knew about her. I knew she was 17 and that she had recently lost her mom and that she was grieving. I used a little bit of inspiration from my own experience of grief as a teenager when my grandad died. I couldn’t bear to share my grief with anyone, I wouldn’t let anyone see me cry. I was a sob into my pillow when no one could see or hear type of kid. From here I made some decisions about Evie’s personality: reserved but not shy, more contained and guarded. Someone with a heart for the underdog – like when she met Aiden. Fiercely loyal – as you see in her relationship with Kitty. I knew she was highly motivated by justice and had zero tolerance for bullies (Richard Dean/Spark, Robert Knox/Stray). I knew she couldn’t stomach public displays of emotion/affection because she is private and she likes to be in control. She’s willing to do anything to protect the people she loves and she’s also willing to make sacrifices and face the consequences to go after what she believes in.

Beyonce fight-for-you

Some of these things I knew in advance, others I learned about her on the journey but my prior knowledge of her as a person enabled me to determine how she spoke, thought, acted and reacted. Dialogue is only the surface of a character’s voice, so much more is created in what is unspoken. Evie’s speech is mostly direct except in situations of high emotion where she is uncomfortable and being forced to talk about her feelings. In these cases her speech is stilted, abrupt and abrasive. Her silences, her body language, her facial expressions – nothing is wasted in creating her voice.


The big advantage of first person narrative point of view is that we have unfiltered access to the interior monologue of the central character. We are given insight into her motivations, hopes, fears, insecurities. These need to be shown rather than told in order for that authenticity to grow. Evie doesn’t think: I’m so angry with Jamie right now. She says, screw you. She doesn’t think: I’m afraid and anxious – instead she loses her appetite, her muscles tighten, she holds her breath, she stops blinking.

scared Dean

I ask questions like actors ask about their characters: what’s her motivation, what does she want/need in the scene. I draw it out in her language, reactions, body, facial expressions, pauses. I always remember a great piece of advice from a book about writing by Sol Stein where he talked about an acting technique used by Stanislavski where he would take two actors give the same scene but opposing scripts and how it always created drama. Everyone comes to a situation with a different script. Our world view, history, experience, values, beliefs shape that script. Knowing Evie’s script informs how she acts in the world of the story. There is a reason for everything she thinks, says, does. If I don’t know these things when I’m writing her in a scene there will be inconsistencies, contradictions, vagueness and holes that will weaken the impact of her voice. My mentor Chris Else used to drive my nuts asking: Why would Evie say/do/think that? It would forces me to go back and rework a scene or piece of dialogue and dig for the honesty and truth in the words and actions.

Ron Burgandy

When an action/reaction seems unbelievable or contrived it’s often a short cut/manipulation to advancing the plot at the expense of authenticity. Everything has to be paid for in characterisation – no short cuts or cheap tricks. Poor technique in written dialogue is another tax on authenticity. There are lots of books and articles about writing great dialogue but my pet peeves as a reader is when characters keep using each other’s names. “Yes, Jim, I’m glad you showed up.” “I came as fast as I could, Ann.” It’s weird and unnatural. Unnecessary formality – people contract words when they speak in real life “can’t” not “cannot” unless it’s for deliberate effect. Weird use of dialogue to tell instead of show. “Jim, I’m so glad you’ve come to help me fight against the evil Blarg.” “I knew you needed me, Ann, since you only have one leg and you’ve lost the last two battles.” Okay, I’m exaggerating but honesty is the best policy.

Make it real. Make it count …

Tim Gunn

if you want to follow the rest of the STRAY blog tour, here are the stops!

September 1
Happy Indulgence | Diva Book Nerd
September 2
Behind the Pages | Cassie the Weird | YA Midnight Reads
September 3
Liz McShane Blog | Imaginary Misadventure
September 4
Fictional Thoughts | Genie in a Book
September 5
Kids Book Review | Books for a Delicate Eternity | Nicole Has Read
September 6
Loony Literate | Book Nerd Reviews
September 7
Striking Keys | Very Dark Horse

@RachaelCraw |

You can also subscribe to Rachael’s new newsletter!

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Posted on: September 5, 2015 • By: Chiara

4 Responses to Review: Stray by Rachael Craw + Author Guest Post

  1. You do make some good points about Jamie, although I guess I just brushed it off as being protective ;) he was very gentlemanly, I thought.

    Awesome post from Rachael (they’ve all been wonderful!). *writes down all her stuff about creating characters*

    • Chiara says:

      I thought he was pretty gentlemanly when it came to the scene where Evie tried to sleep with him. He got kudos from me for that!

      They have been awesome :D Glad you enjoyed it, Emily!

  2. Cassie says:

    Great post from Rachael :)

    And I get what you’re saying about Jamie, Chiara, but I still love him.

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