August 20, 2017

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Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer | SLJ Review

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redstarStarmer, Aaron. Spontaneous. 368p. Dutton. Aug. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525429746. YA-HS-Starmer-Spontaneous

Gr 10 Up –From the author of “The Riverman” trilogy comes a wholly original YA tale of identity, friendship, love, lust, and gory, grisly death. Covington High is facing a unique crisis: one by one, members of the senior class are spontaneously combusting, inexplicably blowing up in a mess of blood and guts. As the body count increases and the government gets involved, 12th grader Mara Carlyle attempts to figure out what’s going on, with the help of her best friend Tess and an FBI agent. This darkly hilarious, fast-paced title will have readers turning pages to uncover the mystery along with Mara, whose witheringly sarcastic first-person voice calls to mind Alice Roosevelt Longworth (“If you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit by me”). Starmer excels at crafting delightfully bizarre situations and skewering current trends and pop culture tropes. He has compiled a diverse body of students whom he kills off with gusto. Underneath the humor, however, lie genuine emotions: Mara falls in love with loner Dylan, reevaluates her friendship with Tess, and examines herself and her own attitudes. While not all readers will warm to a narrator who so blithely disregards the adage against speaking ill of the dead, many will find it refreshing to encounter an unapologetically snarky female protagonist. Sexual situations and references to drug use make this more suitable for older teens. VERDICT Those who appreciate strange and unusual fare will gravitate to this explosive new offering; hand it to fans of Libba Bray, A.S. King, David Lubar, and Andrew Smith.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

This review was published in the School Library Journal August 2016 issue.

Mahnaz Dar About Mahnaz Dar

Mahnaz Dar ( is Assistant Managing Editor for Library Journal and School Library Journal and can be found on Twitter @DibblyFresh.

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