Book Title:
Book Author:
Aaron Starmer
Publishing Date:
August 23rd, 2016
Dutton Books for Young Readers
Date Read:
September 2nd, 2016
ARC from publisher - Thank you!


“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.

My Review

Spontaneous is an oddly bizarre book that is definitely different from anything else you’re going to read this year.  In fact, Spontaneous is so different, once you start reading, not only will you not want to put this down, but you won’t be able to It’s just  that much fun.

“In the past, kids didn’t randomly explode.  Not in pre-calc, not at prom, not even in Chem lab, where explosions aren’t exactly unheard of.  Not one kidNot one explosionAh, the good old days.”

Explosions and spontaneous combustions among high school students was unheard of, until one day during class Katelyn Ogden kind of…blew up.  Out of nowhere, she just exploded, leaving a bunch of questions (among…other things) behind.  Since it was just one kid exploding, things weren’t looking all that bleak…just a bit strange.  However, when another kid explodes, the students at Covington High start to wonder what’s going on, and why their classmates keep blowing up.  After all, they live in a tiny little town in New Jersey – nothing special or out of the ordinary, and yet, students from their school are the only ones in the entire country who are affected by this.

As more and more classmates start to explode, Mara and her friends try and work together with a detective to figure out what is going on.  Is it drug related?  Are kids exploding because they are gay?  Some of the explanations proposed within the pages are downright absurd, but others are just amusing and you kind of have to keep reading to see how it all plays out.

Mara, the main character in the book, narrates the novel with wit and sass, making her one hell of a heroine for such a strange and oddly terrifying story.  From Mara’s point of view, we learn about the characters who are randomly exploding, and read about her personal input about the characters and the situation.  Mara is a bold and opinionated character who adds quite a bit of flair, and while it definitely makes the novel a lot more enjoyable, I did have a bit of a hard time feeling any kind of connection with her character. I’m not sure why, but I just didn’t feel that kind of tie there that made me really love her character.  Her personality felt a tad bit forced to me.

When Mara starts spending time with Dylan, the guy she randomly decides she has a thing for, you can see where it’s headed – they fall in love, despite all of the blowing up that is going on around them, and in between trying to solve whatever is going on around them, they try to spend every last second with each other, falling more and more in love.  Kind of.

“You fall in love, which is the stupidest thing you can ever do.”

Well…like I said, kind of in love, I guess.  She went on about how in love with him she was and how great the two of them were together to just being more or less tolerant of him, then back to being in love with him, then back to just staying with him because the sex was kind of okay and everyone is dying anyway, so why not enjoy things while you can?

I don’t mean to sound so hard about this book.  Just because I didn’t like the main character, doesn’t mean I don’t like the book.  In fact, it was fun, and enjoyable, and I found myself rather addicted to the entire thing.  Mara’s parents are all kinds of nifty, and after reading the book you can tell where Mara gets her foul mouth and opinionated demeanor from.  Still, all good to me.

I do wish this book would have ended differently, as it left A LOT to be desired.  I found myself with more questions than I had when I started, but I guess it’s one of those novels that leaves the ending more or less open to the reader to decide what happens next.  However, if you plan on going into this book thinking that it’s going to be wrapped up all neat with a little bow on top, that isn’t what you’re going to get.

The plot of the book was so original that you’ll probably devour this one like I did, especially if you enjoy quirky YA with outspoken characters and a whole lot of crazy stuff going on. 

4 stars
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4 Responses to Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer

  1. Ali says:

    I have heard some great things about this book. I’m glad it didn’t disappoint! I didn’t realize there was an element of magical realism with this book (I mean, they ARE actually exploding right??). I’m so intrigued by it!!
    Ali recently posted…9 Reasons You Need to Board the “Red Rising Series” LeechCraftMy Profile

    • Kelly says:

      Yes, they are definitely exploding! I didn’t realize there was any magical realism going on in this book, either, until I picked it up. It was really well written!

  2. Deanna says:

    I totally agree with your statement about the ending. It really felt like it was missing something important. Which was sad because the writing was so captivating.

    • Kelly says:

      Ack, that ending was just infuriating on so many levels! It answered like no questions that I had throughout the entire book! Honestly though, like you said, the writing was captivating and pretty much rendered you unable to put the book down, so the ending was a bummer.

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