“Charlie Sparks may seem like your typical teenage boy–except that he isn’t. As he discovers more about his past, his journey forward becomes filled with dangerous monsters and demons nightmares are made of. Will he make it through? Will his new identity help him save the day? Or will it put in danger the ones he loves the most?”
It took me a few months to get through this book, and now that a couple of weeks have passed since I read it… I don’t actually recall much about what happens in it. Which doesn’t reflect well on the book.
My problem with Charlie Sparks is the same as the ones I had for Gilda Olvidado’s Rosallea. Our protagonist is perfect, and he can do no wrong. Even when he purposely goes against the rules, it still works out in his favor. And even when he has to face the challenges to prove his worth–nothing makes the reader’s heart pound.
Now, unlike with Rosallea, I kind of feel bad for not liking Charlie Sparks.
One, it doesn’t really do anything wrong. It just doesn’t do a lot right either. It paints by the numbers, and it tries its best to tell an engaging story. It’s just that, with the proliferation of western fantasy in both local and international young adult books, it’s kind of hard not to judge this book against everything that has already come out. Nothing feels original.
Two, none of the characters seem whole. Charlie’s a Mary Sue who can do no wrong. His best friend is a wimp who can’t do anything right–and yet unwittingly provides the answer to a big problem. And then there are the female characters who stay one note throughout: the two love interest who are mysterious at first, before devolving into stereotypical I-will-wait-for-you damsels who suddenly become kickass. And then there’s the mother figure who only wants to protect her son, and the crone-like guardian who provides the easy way out for everything. And none of them feel real.
And then, there’s number three: the subplot that only serves one purpose: to provide a twist. In the book, Charlie Sparks is a fan of a mysterious author–who buys an island to keep him secluded from prying eyes, and yet opens it for tourists at the most opportune time. A mysterious author who gives the protagonist a mysterious book you would think will be useful for his journey ahead–but only shows up again in the end. To do nothing. Except to surprise the readers with regards to the author’s identity.
I don’t want to discourage new writers from writing, or from making mistakes. Both steps are important for new writers to develop into good writers. But, for the love of all that is good, how hard is it for publishers to get editors who can take the potential of books like Charlie Sparks, mold it into something good, before it gets released?
Now that a new generation of Filipino readers have arisen, it’s time for the publishers to supply books that are, at the very least, sound in plot and characterization. I’m not even asking for original and unique stories anymore. Just make sure they make sense!
Or, in the case of Charlie Sparks, make sure it gets polished first before it gets published.