If the publishing world is still looking for The Next Big Thing in YA novels Scintillate: The Light Key Trilogy by Tracy Clark hits all the right notes. We have a lively teen protagonist in Cora Sandoval, a teen girl whom discovers by accident that she has a one-in-a-million secret power that is illuminating, but puts her life in danger. There are intrepid hip friends, Mari and Dun, a well-meaning but frustrating dad, a mysterious missing mother, and two hunky guys, both exotic Europeans to our California girl. Now the notes are all there, but I don't think that this book is going to soar to the top of the charts. It's a good solid novel, but there are a few things that trip it up a bit. One of the trickiest aspects of the book is Miss Clarks treatment of the romance between Cora and the first hunk, the Irish teen Finn Doyle. Without revealing too many spoilers a large portion of the book is given over to their budding romance. I don't think that I am so old that I have forgotten the power of teen hormones but after a few attempts on my life I might believe that the importance of my love life may seem less important that surviving.
Basically, after a near debilitating illness Cora discovers that she has the ability to see and "read" people's auras. She also finds to her dismay that there are certain people out there who are draining people's auras and killing them. While this is going on Cora seems to be more interested in her new beau, who seems to magically show up every time she turns around. This, as frustrating as I often found it is not an accident on Ms. Clark's part. She is playing a long game in this novel. Cora discovers that her mother may have had a similar ability, and she mysteriously disappeared in Ireland years before. So Cora takes off to find her story. In Ireland she meets Italian hunk Giovanni, and begins to piece together her mom's story. Here the story suddenly picks up the pace as she discovers the aura murderer has followed her, and that Finn is back in Ireland. She meets Finn's family, and the romance continues to hold a lot of our attention until Ms. Clark finally springs her trap. Now I found this plot twist, which I will not reveal, fairly satisfying, because it puts a lot of the annoying aspects of the earlier part of the book in a better light. What at first seemed like unlikely coincidence suddenly stands revealed as well-planned conspiracy, and the book began to grow more tense as Cora's mom's story also took an unpleasant but satisfying turn. As far as narrative gambits go I found it effective, but I fear that some readers may not be as willing to wait through the cloying romance for as long as I did. The last fifth or so of the book fairly explodes with revelations, twists, turns, betrayals, and redemptions. Ms. Clark takes a risk, but I think that it pays off. I am looking forward to book two.