Thank you to Lydia and Philippa at Titan Books for sending us both ARCs and finished copies of this wonderfully dark and unique book!
Nell Crane has always been an outsider. In a city devastated by an epidemic, where survivors are all missing parts—an arm, a leg, an eye—her father is the famed scientist who created the biomechanical limbs everyone now uses. But Nell is the only one whose mechanical piece is on the inside: her heart. Since the childhood operation, she has ticked. Like a clock, like a bomb. As her community rebuilds, everyone is expected to contribute to the society’s good . . . but how can Nell live up to her father’s revolutionary idea when she has none of her own?
Then she finds a mannequin hand while salvaging on the beach—the first boy’s hand she’s ever held—and inspiration strikes. Can Nell build her own companion in a world that fears advanced technology? The deeper she sinks into this plan, the more she learns about her city—and her father, who is hiding secret experiments of his own.
There are three rules:
1. The sick in the Pale, the healed in the Pasture.
2. Contribute, at all cost.
3. All code is blasphemy.
Spare and Found Parts follows the story of Nell Crane, a girl with a clockwork heart whose father revolutionised her home of Black Water City (a dystopian Ireland.) He did this by creating biomechanical limbs after a machine-generated incident named The Turn caused an epidemic to sweep through their land. In a post-apocalyptic world where code is banned, computers are feared and most inhabitants have their manmade parts on the outside, Nell feels like an outsider with her mechanical ticking heart. Unable to connect with the people of her community, and needing to propose her ‘contribution’ to Black Water City (something that all of the city’s inhabitants must do as they rebuild their world) Nell is inspired to build a companion for herself after finding a washed up mannequin hand on the beach.
I really hadn’t anticipated how much I would love this book. Nell was a wonderful main character – she was spiky, different, blunt and to the point, and I absolutely loved her. She’s smart, driven and ambitious; she knew what she wanted to achieve and she wouldn’t let anything or anyone get in her way (even when it meant drugging someone and locking them in a cupboard – basically, I aspire to be like her). I’d also just like to take this chance to point out that it’s heavily implied that Nell is possibly either bisexual or pansexual (there are multiple comments made where Nell has thought of both boys and girls in a romantic way) and she’s also described as being dark skinned. She also absolutely hates being touched (she actually burned a boy for touching her without her consent and frequently points out the fact that she didn’t say someone was allowed to touch her when they did – again, goals) – another reason I completely related to her.
‘Any time Nell thought about boys, or girls for that matter, she immediately sabotaged her fantasy self out of any romance. No beautiful strangers waited in the lamplight to whisk her away from her life, and if there were, Nell was certain that she’d viciously alienate them in less than five minutes flat. If it wasn’t her dour expression or the scar that ran from her chin to her gut, then the ticking would send them running.’
So aside from my complete adoration of Nell, the other aspects of this book that I really loved were the prose, the family mysteries, the feminist narratives and the secondary characters. The writing in this book was just phenomenally beautiful – the majority of the book is written in third person, but there are also chapters written in second person which showcase Nell’s memories, and in first person from the perspective of Io, Nell’s android/companion. I felt that this was the perfect way to tell this story and include every necessary aspect without having too many unnecessary point of view characters, and the lyrical writing style really sucked me in to the story. I just loved Io from the moment he came into being; the anticipation of him that’s built throughout the book certainly made me excited to meet him, and for me he had the perfect balance of having his own independent, sentient thoughts and also following the will of his creator, Nell. I felt as though this portrayed him really well as being a human made AI, built by Nell for her own purposes, but also managed to hint at the issues of machines growing too powerful and independent, causing The Turn.
I am the product of the greatest minds that ever walked this planet. I am the last of my kind. Because of creations like me, your people poisoned one another to death. Might like mine draws wonder and terror, and in the year I was programmed I was as powerful as any god your people ever had. I will not let you make the same mistakes again.
Nell’s friend Ruby was also a great character in my opinion – I loved how she was completely unashamed of her disability and shows it with pride (she only has one eye) and also didn’t let this get in her way of her dreams of designing clothes. Although her and Nell had their falling outs throughout the book, Ruby still always stuck by Nell when she needed her. Oliver, a boy who had done an apprenticeship with Nell’s father and subsequently developed an unrequited crush on Nell, was certainly an annoying character but still important to the overall story arc, and I appreciated his development by the end of the book.
So, the mystery aspect – I would always opt for a fantasy book over a thriller, but I can’t get enough of dark family mysteries, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that a family mystery is a big part of Spare and Found Parts! Nell’s family, the Starling-Cranes, have all sorts of dark hidden secrets and I became really invested in uncovering them alongside Nell.
I believe that Spare and Found Parts is a stand-alone, and the ending was written in a way which could leave the story as it is or have it continued in the future – however, it was still a satisfying ending despite being slightly open to interpretation! I would absolutely love to read more about Nell, Io, and the rebuilding of Black Water City.
I absolutely adored this dark, post-apocalyptic coming of age story. Spare and Found Parts is released on the 6th February by Titan Books, and I highly recommend that you pick up a copy!
lots of love,