Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer

23587115Title: Spontaneous

Author: Aaron Starmer

Pub Date: August 23rd, 2016

My Rating: ★★★★☆

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Buy on Book Depository | Wordery

Synopsis from Goodreads:

A darkly funny and spectacularly original exploration of friendship, goodbyes—and spontaneous combustion.

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. It’s 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 from the President of the United States.

Aaron Starmer rewrites the rulebook with Spontaneous. But beneath the outrageous is a ridiculously funny, super honest, and truly moving exemplar of the absurd and raw truths of being a teenager in the 21st century . . . and the heartache of saying goodbye.

This is a very unusual book. Imagine that seniors in high school in New Jersey started to spontaneously combust. Can you even imagine that? This is an absolutely ridiculous idea, and this is exactly what happens in the book. The main character, Mara is a witness to the first spontaneous combustion of one of her classmates. She sits in the class, and suddenly BOOM, everything is covered in blood.

I instantly liked Mara, she is opinionated and likes to joke in strange situations. Her sense of humour may be an acquired taste for some, but for me, it was perfect from the start. I liked her voice, and how she was narrating the story. She wasn’t over emotional and whiny when facing such horrible situations like her friends combusting. Mara presented a perfect balance of indifference, sadness and selfishness.

With the phenomenon of spontaneous combustions among teens, the author presented a lot of important and thought-provoking issues. First of all – racism. Some of the first victims of the combustion are teens of colour, which of course raised a lot of voices, that those were acts of terrorism or whatever you can imagine. The second was homosexuality – voices that this is Gods ‘revange’ on the gays. This unexplainable phenomenon showed how society reacts to such horrible events. Even though the circumstances in the book are unusual, how society reacts is very usual, something we can see now. The alienation of victims, demonization of races, sexuality and whatnot. Anything that seems to be unexplainable causes craziness among masses that is sprouting some nonsense ideas about the roots of evil in the world. The book also shows how the survivors of the shamed, feared and demonised group react and deal with life in a world that hates them.

I can imagine that this is not the kind of story, humour and characters that will be appealing to everyone. But for me, this was a great book. The dark humour and strong, unapologetic characters stand out from other young adult novels, and if you look closely, there is a lot of food for thought in this book. It’s not just about the ridiculous idea of spontaneous combustions in one American high school.

PS. You can see that blurb for this book was written way before November elections in the USA – it says there that in this book you’ll get “the filthiest language you’ve ever heard from the President of the United States”. Yeah… not so sure about that.


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