Since when do kids spontaneously combust in the middle of a pre-calculus class? In Aaron Starmer’s latest teen novel, Spontaneous, the rebellious and completely hilarious main character, Mara Carlyle, is tasked with grappling with the gory deaths of her fellow classmates — who are dying from randomly exploding — while also discovering who is responsible and why these deaths are occurring. Told with wit and completely relatable and edgy characters, Starmer perfectly embodies what it is like to be a teenager in today’s society: the pressures of dating, fitting in, and sex included.
Mara’s story begins with a bang, literally. During the very first month of school, Katelyn Ogden explodes all over Mara’s math class, leaving chaos, confusion, and disgust in her wake. But what everyone believes to be a random and terrible accident becomes a reoccurring nightmare. With more and more kids exploding and disorder and fear filling the people of Mara’s town, nothing is certain, and everyone is eager to come to odds with the cause of these sporadic and random deaths. Filled with morbid humor, plenty of gory and explosive deaths, and a delightful narrator who rustles with the “if only” situations in life, Spontaneous is a novel that will make readers laugh out loud, flip through page after page of intensity and mystery, and cringe with horror as Mara’s peers blow up around her; this novel is anything but predictable.
Spontaneous was a novel that I loved reading; it allowed me to laugh hysterically and also be a bit grossed out from the gorier aspects of the novel, which were so well-written that I could feel the blood splattering on my face as Mara’s friends were combusting one by one. While humor plays a major role in this novel, it was also very relatable and realistic; Mara is a brave and bold female character that is well-needed in the YA genre.
While I did enjoy the novel, some of it may be over the top for some readers. For those who are sensitive to violence, this is not the book to choose. The pages are covered in guts and blood, guaranteed to shock teen audiences. Another aspect that was taken to an extreme level was the amount of crude content in the novel. While clever and completely hilarious, it may be a bit too much to swallow for younger readers. Despite the overuse of profanity and some of the graphic violence, Spontaneous is filled with heart, and those who do choose to read it will be left with a smile on their face and pains in their side from laughing. Mara’s journey is one not to miss.
Told with a fresh and unique voice and a plot that is unlike anything ever written for teen audiences, Spontaneous is sure to be one of the most brilliant YA books written all year. Starmer has combined action, romance, and even a bit of thrilling moments into one novel that both male and female readers will find satisfying and completely hilarious.