Unison Spark Book Poster Image

Unison Spark



Sci-fi thriller puts a futuristic spin on social networking.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Although mainly a fast-paced advenure, Unison Spark raises intriguing questions about the future of social networking and the widening gap between the haves and have-nots.

Positive messages

Misteltoe and Ambrose both learn to see beyond their own prejudices and work together to thwart a plot that will affect millions. They gradually learn that real-life connections are more important than online friendships.

Positive role models

Both Ambrose and Mistletoe are brave, loyal and empathic. Although they seem to be from different worlds, they kind a way to work together as they search for the ultimate truth about their upbringings.


An important supporting character is killed with a "disruptor," a kind of energy weapon. Another is blown up in an explosion. There are a handful of physical scuffles, plus some alarming online hallucinations. In general, however, the violence and its aftermath are not dwelt upon.

Not applicable

"Friend" and its various verb and adjectival forms are used as expletives, for reasons that are not particularly clear nor convincing.


Unison, the social network at the center of the novel's plot,  is all about spending money to enhance the online experience. The ultimate message of the book, however, is that it is real-life connections that are important.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this fast-paced science fiction adventure explores the future of social networking and raises questions about the wealth and tech gap between the upper and lower classes.

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What's the story?

Fifteen-year-old Mistletoe has lived her entire beneath the canopy that separates the rich from the poor in Eastern Seaboard City. After she rescues Ambrose Truax, heir to the Unison empire and its massively popular social network, she finds herself thrust into a conspiracy that dates back before her birth and that connects her with the impending Unison 3.0 upgrade. She and Ambrose have to stay one step ahead of opponents who seem to have unlimited powers online and on the streets.

Is it any good?


Unison Spark presents an intriguing vision of the future, at a time when social networks have become massively popular and almost more compelling than real life. Marino crafts the chase sequences and online adventures with flair, but he is less successful in orchestrating the ending, which might confuse some readers not used to these kinds of science fiction tales.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how social network might evolve in the future. If it became more like virtual reality, would you want to spend more time online?

  • In Unison Spark, there are two distinct societies: one above the Eastern Seaboard canopy for the wealthy and one below it for the poor. Are there places today where such a wide gap exists between the rich and the impoverished?

  • One character undergoes an operation that will terminate his need to sleep. What advantages might there be to being awake 24/7? What might some drawbacks be?

Book details

Author:Andy Marino
Genre:Science Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Henry Holt & Company, Inc.
Publication date:November 8, 2011
Number of pages:240

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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