Spare and Found Parts was a complete impulse buy for me at an author event at Waterstones where author Sarah Maria Griffin was in attendance and a speaker. Originally I didn’t really have any intention of picking up a copy of Spare and Found Parts (not out of any negative feeling, but because I’d never heard of the author before that night and my bank balance was already whimpering sadly in the back of my mind). However, listening to Sarah talk was such a joyful, funny and genuine experience that I couldn’t leave the evening without a copy of her debut novel.
Spare and Found Parts revolves around protagonist Nell Crane and her desire to build a perfect (robot) companion. Basically, Nell is super anti-social and wants to be in total control of what her ideal friend is like, so she decides to build a robot in a society where technology is treated with fear and hostility. She does this to use her companion as her ‘contribution’ to society to prove her worth.
I want to start off by saying that Spare and Found Parts is a great novel for the younger age range that YA has, however for older YA readers I don’t think it’ll quite hit the spot. It’s s YA dystopia – and that’s usually one of my favourite sub-genres – but there’s so much in the novel that is underdeveloped, or not explored that I think it would just end up frustrating older readers. It’s not a bad book; it’s just more of a ‘read and move on’ novel for me.
Unfortunately it took me a long time to read Spare and Found Parts – not because of any great complexity, I just wasn’t that excited about it and after putting it down I wasn’t in any turn to pick it back up again and move on with the chapters. Part of this could be to do with the very slow pacing. A lot of the story was the reader just waiting for something to happen.needless to say, my attention slipped in places. It just took Nell so long to actually have the idea to build s companion and even longer for anything of substance to happen after that.
“Hinges of gold and silver and stainless steel and some polluted with rust lay about the place like loose butterflies in a lush metal garden.”
I’m honestly not trying to be so negative about Spare and Found Parts but the world building was a major issue and blocker to me fully enjoying the story. The biggest issue was the sheer lack of world building. There was literally no explanation of what day-to-day life looked like for people, no explanation of how the world works, how the society works without technology, no explanation as to what made the world go to hell and no explanation of what the ‘sickness’ was or meant.
On top of this there was no clear explanation of what society really looks like after the lack of technology, or the transitional stage from having to not having. I really had trouble understanding the world and how it works.
The supporting characters were the best part of the entire book. Ruby and Oliver are such great characters! I would love to read short stories about both of them! And whilst I’m talking about Ruby and Oliver, I genuinely have no sides what they see in Nell. Ruby and Oliver are both genuinely wonderful people and Nell, quite frankly, is a bitch. But more on that in a moment. Io (who I won’t discuss too much here) was incredibly sweet and subtly funny and generally a very cute character.
” ‘No machine is ever truly dead. Death is for humans.’ “
But now on to Nell. I had some major issues with Nell. At the author event at Waterstones, Sarah mentioned that she’d written Nell as an unlikable and selfish character. Well, she succeeded.
I’m glad I went to this talk because I think if I hadn’t and didn’t know that Nell was intentionally written this way I might have given up on Spare and Found Parts.
I felt like Nell thought that she was better than, and above, practically everyone in her life. Some of the thoughts she has about the other characters are elitist, nasty for the sake of being nasty and just downright fucking mean. Especially to Oliver, who has done nothing to deserve the venom that Nell spits in his face.
It’s made quite clear to the reader relatively early on in the book that Nell doesn’t like to be touched – which is fair enough. I appreciate that not everyone likes to be touched or have their ‘personal bubble’ popped. However Nell never tells anyone her preference not to be touched! Instead, all she does is internally berate whoever has offended her. HOW does this idiot expect people to know? They aren’t fucking mind readers! It’s my opinion that Nell has no intention of actually telling people about her feelings towards personal contact. I think she’s one of those people who prefers to wallow in negativity and enjoys being a nasty bitch to the people in her life.
Other than her negativity, we don’t really find out much more about Nell except for the fact that she’s bisexual and non-white. That’s not enough for me. I want to know much more about a character other than their dominant emotion, skin colour and sexuality. There are readers out there where just the sheer mention of a non-white, non-heterosexual character is enough to make them a good character. But I’m not one of those readers. Don’t get me wrong, representation is important but it shouldn’t be one of the only defining factors in building a character. Unfortunately, Nell has little more than this going for her.
I don’t like Nell as a character. At all. Not even in the ‘you’re not supposed to like her’ way. I just didn’t like her. Full stop.
Anyway – enough negativity for now. The writing in Spare and Found Parts was really good, if a little whimsical to a fault at times. The story and twists were a little predictable in places, but I don’t think this will be an issue for younger readers. Personally I wasn’t a fan of he tense switches, but this is purely a personal preference.
The binary parts were very interesting – I’ve not seen that done in a book before. Readers absolutely do not need to decode the binary messages in order to gain a better, or even a more detailed, understanding of the story. It was a fun little task, but it didn’t add anything. Personally I don’t think the payoff was worth the absolute ballache of manually decoding a couple of pages of binary – either time it happens.
The premise of Spare and Found Parts is brilliant, but I just don’t think it’s been pulled off as well as it could have been. At least not for older readers. It’s a quirky book with a quirky voice and it’s definitely a decent debut, but it just wasn’t for me. I’m sure it’ll make a nice little introduction to the steampunk genre for some people too!
With that being said though, I am looking forward to the next book by Sarah Maria Griffin and will definitely be giving it a go!
” ‘I just need you to tell me no, once more, for real,’ he said, and Nell mentally drew a different blade. Their dueling days were over. This was an execution.”
Do you want to find your very own copy of Spare and Found Parts? You can buy a copy here!
[PLEASE NOTE]: I was not paid or sponsored to write this review – all the opinions are honest and my own.