Monday, August 22, 2016

Review: Spontaneous

Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer
Publisher: Dutton Books For Young Readers
Release Date: August 23rd, 2016
Source: Book Expo America
Date Read: 8/18/16 to 8/19/16
368 pages

“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.

I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

Real conversation featuring me (as myself) and my best friend via Skype.

Me: So I'm reading this book about students spontaneously combusting--
Best Friend: Spontaneously what?
Me: Combusting.
Best Friend: ...why????????
Me: I don't know that's why I'm reading it to FIND OUT.


Best Friend: Can you read me the first sentence?
Me: "When Katelyn Ogden blew up in third period pre-calc, the janitor probably figured he'd only have to scrub the guts off one whiteboard this year."
Best Friend: That was better than I expected, more so actually.
Best Friend: Can you read me the entire paragraph?

As you can see, who doesn't want to read a book about spontaneously combusting students? When I first heard about it, I was quite intrigued, confused, and overall thought the book itself was a joke. To my surprise, Spontaneous delivered. Tremendously.

It's the last year of high school, and the last thing Mara is expecting is for students to suddenly start exploding, one by one. First it was seen by chance, never to happen again. But then, as more and more Covington High seniors start exploding, it's seen as a virus. Or a government conspiracy. Either way, the students are seen as contagious, dangerous, and a threat to the rest of the world.

Yet even so, Mara finds romance in this time of chaos. And although I found the relationship between Mara and Dylan a little too quick for my liking, it didn't necessarily bother me. Mostly because the focus of the story stayed on the plot. The spontaneously combusting students.

What really made this book stand out though was how it was more than just the explosions. It wasn't just about the problem, but also about friends, family, how an entire class of students got together, reestablished their classes, and tried to regain some sort of normalcy in their lives. Because as fun and hilarious as spontaneously combusting sounds, this novel says otherwise. Mara, and the other students, go through phases of being determined, indifferent, desperate, because to find out you can die at any moment is very frightening.

With that in mind, I do want to point out that this book has a lot of dark humor. Contrary to my expectations, this wasn't a light-hearted read.

Then there was also the ending, which although meaningful, was a little disappointing to me. I don't think there's much else I can say without spoiling, but I did want more.

If you happen to see Spontaneous around, I definitely urge you to check it out. It might not be a book for everyone, but it's not every day you find a book about exploding students.   
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