reviews · sapphic books

Duology Review: Blackout and Sparks by Kit Mallory

Summary of Blackout from Goodreads:

After the Board came to power the world changed the way a hunter stalks its prey: all paranoia and imagined flickers of shadow, so that while you were being torn to pieces you were still wondering whether you were overreacting.

For 16-year-old Skyler, fear is a way of life. For three years, since the Wall split the UK in two, her survival as an illegal Northern refugee in the South has been a perilous balancing act between staying in the shadows and clinging to her reputation as the South’s best hacker.

Fellow refugee Mackenzie is a ghost from her past she’d rather ignore. But when their paths collide unexpectedly, Skyler sees an opportunity to exact revenge on the brutal regime that destroyed her home and family – even if it means she goes down with them.

Forced, with extreme reluctance, on the run together, Skyler and Mackenzie, along with enigmatic contract killer Angel, must find a way to outrun not only the Board and the South’s most sadistic crime lord, but their own personal demons. If they can manage to not end up murdering each other in the process, that’ll be a bonus.

But more is at stake than any of them realise. And Skyler, who has long believed she has nothing left to lose, is about to discover just how wrong she is.

Shortlisted for the 2016 Mslexia Children’s Novel Award, Blackout is a story of resistance, friendship and survival.

While I bought a copy of Blackout myself, Sparks was sent to me for free by the author in exchange for an honest review. 

This review is spoiler free.

4 stars

Content warnings: violence, guns, murder, mentions of sexual assault, trama, torture, torture pulling from mental illness related fears, obsessive compulsive disorder representation (specifically: contamination, fear of hurting others, counting), honestly maybe more, if you want to know anything specific don’t hesitate to ask 💜

This is my first ever time writing a duology review, and I am not really sure how to go about doing this, so I think that the game plan is to do a quick mini summary, my thoughts on the individual books, and then the things I really liked about this duology (ie, the reasons why you should read it)!

Blackout follows Mackenzie, Skylar, and Angel as they accidentally end up on the wrong side of the government and local crime lords by stealing a top secret military memory file. The group decides to hack into the file to discover just what the government is hiding, but then have to figure out what to do with the information they receive. Sparks picks up right where the first book left off as the group realizes it will take more than the three of them to take down the entire government, but they are not sure who they can really trust to help them.

Blackout was a very strong debut, the action scenes were well written, the characters were easy to connect to, and the world building wasn’t too intense that my three collective brain cells couldn’t handle it. I immediately felt for Skylar and Angel and watching their relationship begin was so much fun! I was shocked by how much I related to Mackenzie, I will talk more about it later but I could see so much of my mental health struggles through him. I was left with a few questions at the end concerning world building, so if that is a big turn off for you, you should keep that in mind, but for me I kind of enjoy less world building than more.

I enjoyed Sparks slightly less than Blackout, mainly because I wasn’t the biggest fan of Faith, the new character introduced in this book, but it was still a really fun time. I liked how this book actually explored how unlikely it is for a ragtag group of teenagers to take down a tyrannical regime. I also like the mention of therapy at the very end, I feel like that doesn’t happen nearly enough in books so that bit made me very very happy.

Now, for the fun part, the list of things that I really loved about this series (ie, why you should go pick them up immediately).

The OCD rep. I’ve talked about this briefly in this review and on twitter, but this is some of the best and most relatable OCD rep I have ever read. It was just, so so good and so accurate. The way the thought spirals and the contamination freak outs were so well done. While Mackenzie’s OCD is not labeled as that in Blackout (or maybe it is? If so only once or twice and I don’t remember), it is confirmed in his file in Sparks. I like the many conversations surrounding this mental illness and how it affects him but it doesn’t define him, it was just so fucking powerful and trust me when I say I will be promoting this series for the mental illness rep for a long time.

The characters. I love almost all of the characters in these books (accept for like, the villains, tbh), they are also so fleshed out and they have to confront their biases and past mistakes and overcome them to be better people. They are fully human with flaws and strengths and weaknesses and I love that so much.

The sapphics (duh). As far as I recall, no labels are ever used for the two girls in a relationship in this duology, but they both only date and seem attracted to women. I love them so much, I love how they hold each other up and together and believe in each other and its too good.

The found family. I love the found family trope and all of the messages that love is more important than blood and all of that, I am a sucker for it everytime. Seeing Mackenzie, Skylar, and Angel go from people who help each other out on jobs sometimes to family was so wonderful and great. I love how the girls helped Mackenzie manage his OCD and he helped the girls get through tough, anger inducing events. It was just so good.

I could probably keep talking about these books for a while, but I do believe that I am starting to be borderline incoherent and just saying I love it over and over again, so I will leave us with this. Please consider picking up these books, I really really enjoyed them.

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