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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer

Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer
Release Date: August 23rd
Publisher: Dutton
*ARC received by publisher for honest feedback*

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.

As soon as I was told that this book was about a high school where teens start spontaneously combusting, I knew I was going to read it. I didn't need to know anything else to be convinced this should be added to my TBR. I've never read a book about spontaneous combustion, but having some basic knowledge about what it is I figured this book could either be really great or really terrible. It definitely falls into the realm of great for me. 

Our narrator is Mara. Mara tells it like it is, or at least she tells it like she sees it. And Mara has seen things, a lot of them being her exploding classmates. Let me just say, there are a lot of exploding teens in this book. Of course, given the plot of this story, this isn't really all that shocking. I'll be honest, the exploding teens aren't even the most interesting part of this book. I'd even venture to say, they are the least interesting part. What I found most interesting, and what kept me turning pages, were the reactions to what was happening in this little New Jersey town. The reactions of the students, the parents, the government, our country, and even the world. The people outside of Covington, and even some of the people inside, had the strongest reactions. We all know that humanity as a whole doesn't really know how to handle it when something they don't understand happens. In this book, and I imagine if it started happening in real life, they ultimately react how you would expect. Keep them contained! Don't let it spread! Do whatever you must to figure out what is wrong with them!

I think what I liked most, though, was after all that initial panic and mayhem. Once the rest of the world started to forget about them, once other tragedies overshadowed this one and they were left to their own devices we got to see this kids trying to get their lives back. To make the most out of their new reality. And I think this is where the true message lies. We never know when our time is up, and while most of us probably won't meet our end by exploding, you have to take charge of your life and get as much out of it as you can while you can. Don't get me wrong, some of them went about it in all the wrong ways, but that seems pretty realistic to me. Mara was one of the worst offenders, hanging out near the rockiest of rock bottoms, but she gets her fight back and while the end is left pretty wide open, there is hope. And really isn't that all we need in life? Hope and a little perseverance?

*Image and synopsis provided by Goodreads

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