Review: Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer

Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer

Spontaneous was my most anticipated read from BEA 2016. I thought the whole spontaneous combustion thing was a joke when I first heard the book described. But then I listened the Aaron Starmer talk about his book on one of the panels.

The book explained in the author’s words

Aaron said he really wanted to write a senior year book. He wanted to write about that feeling of knowing that everything is going to change, that feeling of impending doom. He also thinks senior year is the most fun year because of the bonding with friends. Starmer wanted to write about the experiences of senior year but under the threat of potential annihilation.

At this point in the panel I was a little skeptical. It sounded very much like a “guy” book, and I don’t always do well with male main characters. And then someone in the audience asked a question that let Aaron to answer the question I wanted to ask, which was “what is the gender of the main character?” Female! He talked about how this girl main character (I don’t think he ever said her name) was the only voice that had enough humor to get through it all. He said she was a survivor and that she had to confront her emotions for the first time and that she is a very guarded and sarcastic person. Sarcasm isn’t always my thing, but based on everything else he said, I knew I had to read this book.

My thoughts on the book

This book is all about the tone. Mara is super sarcastic and funny, and it really works for this book. She’s a member of the senior class at Covington High School in New Jersey. Her classmates begin spontaneously combusting – exploding out of nowhere and seemingly at random. The FBI come to town to investigate, but no one can figure out the cause. Amidst it all, Mara falls in love for the first time. Everything is suddenly more important and less important at the same time.

The plot of this book was pretty out there. There was actually less spontaneous combusting than I was expecting. This book is about so much more than that, but it’s almost more of a character novel, which is kind of crazy given the insane story line. I loved Mara. I loved being inside her head. And for once, I (almost) didn’t care what was happening. I just enjoyed reading her thoughts. Although honestly it’s written more as if she’s actually talking to the reader.

Despite the heavy subject matter, this book is really fun. In addition to Mara, I really liked the characters of Dylan (her boyfriend) and Tess (her best friend) and even her parents were pretty decent although not too present. There are some awesome teachers and a pretty kick-ass FBI agent, a.k.a. Lady Nightshade.

If you’re looking for a contemporary YA novel that’s different, look no further. This book is definitely an original.

Rating: 4 Stars

Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher at BEA 2016 in exchange for an honest review. This fact does not in any way impact my thoughts/feelings about the book.

Aaron Starmer
Young Adult Fiction
Dutton Books for Young Readers
August 30, 2016

“Katelyn Ogden was a lot of things, but she wasn’t particularly explosive, in any sense of the word.”

Mara Carlyle’s senior year at Covington High in suburban New Jersey is going on as normally as could be expected, until the day—wa-bam!—fellow senior Katelyn Ogden explodes during third period pre-calc. Katelyn is the first, but she won’t be the last senior to spontaneously combust without warning or explanation. The body count grows and the search is on for a reason—Terrorism! Drugs! Homosexuality! Government conspiracy!—while the seniors continue to pop like balloons.

Mara narrates the end of their world as she knows it with tell-it-like-it-is insight as she tries to make it to graduation in one piece through an explosive year punctuated by romance, quarantine, lifelong friendship, hallucinogenic mushrooms, bloggers, ice cream trucks, “Snooze Button™,” Bon Jovi, and the filthiest language you’ve ever heard the President of the United States use over Skype.

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    1. Thanks, Cassi. Spontaneous was a fun read despite the heavy content. It wasn’t quite as good as I was hoping, but I still enjoyed it a lot. I’m sorry Thieving Weasels didn’t work out for you. I didn’t get that one at BEA. I didn’t think I would like it.

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