Mara Carlyle’s senior year is going as normally as could be expected, until—wa-bam!—fellow senior Katelyn Ogden explodes during third period pre-calc.
Katelyn is the first, but she won’t be the last teenager to blow up without warning or explanation. As the seniors continue to pop like balloons and the national eye turns to Mara’s suburban New Jersey hometown, the FBI rolls in and the search for a reason is on.
Whip-smart and blunt, Mara narrates the end of their world as she knows it while trying to make it to graduation in one piece.
When I first read about Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer in Entertainment Weekly, I was skeptical. Kids blowing up? Sounded lame to me. I decided I wouldn’t bother reading it. Then I saw it at the library on the 7 day reading shelf. I figured I would check it out since I didn’t have to put in a request. I dove into the book right away and started laughing out loud as soon as the protagonist, Mara, started speaking. Mara has quite the voice. The f-bomb (pun intended) is thrown around more than a few times; not something you see in most YA books.
When you think about it, kids blowing up their senior year, for no reason at all, IS kind of funny. If that happened to me, I probably wouldn’t be laughing, but since I was reading about it, I chucked more times than I can count. As the book went on, we met new characters, some blew up, and some didn’t. There was a lot of craziness going on and the book became redundant. Suddenly, it wasn’t funny anymore, it was just boring. As much as I enjoyed the first half of the book, I didn’t like the second half as much. What kept me reading was the fact that I wanted to know why kids were blowing up and also because the book is based in New Jersey. I love reading books that mention Wawa, as if everyone in the world even knows that it is the best convenience store ever.
All the relationships in Spontaneous are weird. At first, the relationship between Mara and her best friend, Tess, was really sweet, endearing, and interesting. Then it just started to get strange. Mara started to ignore Tess, Tess started trying to figure out what was going on scientifically with the senior class, and then the story ended. There were stretches of pages that Tess wasn’t even mentioned. Her character could have been developed a lot more, instead of focusing on Mara’s “rebel” boyfriend, Dylan. I guess attaching yourself to any character, in a story where a lot of people are blowing up, is difficult. The ending blew, pun intended, once again. It was horrible. Not enough information given. Let just say, if it does turn into a movie, for once, I hope they change the ending so it doesn’t suck as much.
Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer is an interesting book about a topic that isn’t normally present in young adult novels: spontaneous combustion. It’s not your typical high school novel with tons of love and friendship. It is worth checking out if you want a good laugh.