Book Review: Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer

I was pleasantly surprised by this book.  I’ll admit that I was skeptical at the beginning, I mean a book about high school students blowing up??? That’s pretty weird, not to mention morbid.  But the strange concept was what led me to pick up this one.  I ended up really enjoying Spontaneous, it was quirky and really held my interest.


by: Aaron Starmer

date published: August 23, 2016

page length: 368

average Goodreads rating: 3.39/5 stars

my Goodreads rating: 3/5 stars – liked it

Goodreads summary: “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.

My Thoughts

I strongly encourage anyone interested in YA fiction to give this book a try, maybe it won’t be your thing, but it might just surprise you.  I don’t want to really go into detail about the whole spontaneous combustion thing or the plot because it’s best to go into this one knowing very little.  However, if you have read the book already or aren’t planning to, stick around for some more detailed thoughts.

Image result for walking away from explosion gif

Spontaneous Combustion???

Okay, I’m skipping straight to the end.  To tell the truth, I don’t generally care for open endings – I like it when the author wraps everything up and answers all the questions.  That is most definitely not the way Spontaneous ends, the book is obviously centered around kids that blow up.  Throughout the book theories about the cause of the episodes come and go, and I was hoping that by the end of the book some kind of conclusion would be reached.  But that was not the case.  We’re left with Mara kind of coming to terms with everything that has happened, but we never actually find out why it all happened, or why it was the senior class at Covington High School that started spontaneously combusting.

I think Tess’s theory was the most compelling:

“It’s like milk going sour or bread going moldy.  Buy a bunch of loaves of bread and cartons of milk and leave them in the refridgerator or on the counter or out in the sun and they’ll all go bad on different timelines.  Like us.  Since we’ve had different experiences, diets, and so on, our bodies have aged differently.  The Daltons were born the same time and had as similar an upbringing as two people could probably have.  Therefore they exploded at essentially the same moment.  As for the rest of us, like milk or bread, it’s only a matter of time.”

Although it doesn’t address the exact cause behind the combustions it gives them some kind of logic and pattern.


Okay, let’s talk about our protagonist for a moment.  Mara was fine, but I just didn’t like her as a person.  I imagine that if she went to my school I’d actually think she was quite irritating.  As a protagonist she wasn’t too bad – just kind of dull and uninteresting.  Also, I found the dynamic between Mara and her parents to be very strange.  Like that whole part about how much they like to hug her or whatever? But then sometimes it seems like they’re not close at all?

Mara’s Obsession with Carla Rosetti

Image result for stalker gif

This was probably my least favorite aspect of the book. I mean, what was the point?  As I was reading it felt like whole pages were devoted to Mara’s woman-crush on Carla.  It was annoying and I ended up skipping over a lot of that.  It didn’t really add anything to the story and came across as creepy and obsessive to me.


Tess was my favorite character in Spontaneous.  When everyone else (including Mara) was freaking out and having breakdowns, it seemed like Tess kept herself together and was able to continue with her life.  I mean, she even took her AP exams.

I’m not sure what everyone else thought, but I’m pretty sure she blew up outside of the prom while Mara was asleep and for me, that was the saddest part of the whole book.

To Conclude

Overall, I enjoyed the book and I’m looking forward to whatever Aaron Starmer has for us next.

Have you read Spontaneous? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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