Spare and Found Parts by Sarah Maria Griffin is a sort-of post-dystopian take on Frankenstein. I love Frankenstein as much as the next dark and twisted human, but honestly? I think Sarah’s book is better.
Nell Crane is an outsider, whose mother (Cora) died when she was young and whose father (Julian) is famous for his creation of bio-mechanical limbs. These are so desperately needed in this post-epidemic world where almost everyone is missing one body part or another. Even in this world Nell stands out, because she is the only person whose mechanical part is on the inside: her heart. Everywhere she goes, she is followed by the mechanical beat, one that is always steady whatever is going on in Nell’s life. It makes people fear her, and makes Nell feel distant from others around her and as though she doesn’t quite understand them.
Spare and Found Parts is not so much a dystopia as a post-dystopia, looking at every-day life after the crisis has happened. Nell and her people are trying to rebuild themselves and their city (a version of Dublin, I think) after the devastation of an epidemic, one caused by their own obsession with technology. Everyone has to contribute to this rebuilding of society and Nell is under a lot of pressure to create and live up to her family name. It’s a lot for a young girl to deal with. She has no idea that feels good enough or original enough, until she stumbles upon a mannequin hand and comes up with the perfect plan: to build a person, her own companion.
“Could she build a boy? Could she make metal think? Could she create something that wasn’t still, something that could breathe and feel?”
More than this, she wants her people to face up to their fear of technology and to prove to them that some good can come of it. Enter Io, the most adorable being. I just loved him, okay? He is kind to Nell, concerned for her (in a way that others around her don’t seem to be) and he introduces her to music, and to the positive side of the technology her society so fears.
Contrast this with Oliver (at an event of Sarah’s I attended, she described him very succinctly as “a post-apocalyptic fuckboy“). Oliver wants Nell. He wants to posess her, he feels like if he annoys her enough he’ll win her over. He thinks that he can bribe her with spare parts and contraband technology. He thinks he is entitled to her, for reasons that become clear towards the end of the book. No Oliver. Go away, there’s a lad.
There are secrets in this book. Big ones. Oliver’s is only one secret of many. There were some that when I read them shook me to the core of my dark and withered heart. I wanted to scoop Nell out of the pages and just hug her forever. I will never be over that ending no matter how many times I read this book (and it is one I intend to re-read, frequently).
Sarah’s writing is beautiful and lyrical, there are some stunning passages that I kept reading over and over, but the story is Dark (with a capital D). If I haven’t sold it to you yet, then I’m doing this badly. Spare and Found Parts is one of my favourite reads of ever, and I stand by my opening remarks: I love it more than I loved Frankenstein.