Aaron Starmer has written a book like no other.
The main character, Mara serves as narrator and major player in the effort to find out why the kids are being completely obliterated. Is it the kids who do drugs? Did the government do something to them when they went to visit D.C. in eighth grade? Can Mara’s best friend Tess confirm her scientific theory which will explain the phenomena? No one can say for sure.
This is a story of a class of seniors from suburban New Jersey who are trying to figure out who they are and what matters most to them at this pivotal time in their lives. Here’s how Mara tries to explain it at the start of the novel:
To describe how you feel after a girl explodes in your pre-calc class is a tad tricky. I imagine it’s similar to how you feel when any tragedy comes hurtling into your life. You’re scared. You’re fragile. You flinch. All the time. You may have never even thought about what holds life together. Until, of course, it comes apart (p. 9).
TBF readers, if you are someone who has a sense of humor which can run a bit dark and twisted, this is a book for you.
I have to admit, I never got used to the kids meeting their demise by spontaneous combustion. Also, you should know that Mara has a penchant for curse words – rarely does she share with you what’s going on in her world without using an explicative to make her point.
On the other hand, I would say these volatile elements are really just the backdrop to the seemingly more significant issues facing them as they count down the days until graduation -- issues like, what about senior prom? Should I take the SATs? Will I pass pre-calculus? Will we all still be friends after high school? Is this what love feels like? How do I know for sure?
I promise as you read Spontaneous you will be rooting for Mara and her friends all the way.
Dr. Laura Jones is a literacy education professor at Nazareth College and serves as a member of the planning committee for the annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival. She is proud to be a part of this community partnership working to connect middle school and high school students from across New York State with authors of young adult literature.