Book - 2016
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An exploration of friendship, goodbyes--and spontaneous combustion--in a high school senior class in suburban New Jersey.
Publisher: New York : Dutton Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, [2016]
ISBN: 9780525429746
Characteristics: 355 pages ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

November 2017

November 2017

Mara Carlyle just wants to survive her last year of high school, but it isn’t going to be easy. Out of nowhere, members of the senior class have begun to spontaneously combust, and no one knows how to stop it.

Mara's senior year starts off with a bang when her classmate Kristin spontaneously combusts during third period... and she's only the first one to go.

November 2017

From the critics

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JCLChrisK Jun 14, 2017

People deal with grief, fear, anger, and other difficult emotions in many ways. One of those ways is humor. That's Mara. Her telling of her story is hilarious. With a cynical, skeptical, acerbic, over-the-top wit of the best social-commentary-humorists, she shares how she spent her senior year of high school dealing with the very real possibility that she might just spontaneously combust.

It's clear she doesn't find anything about getting covered in the exploded blood, guts, and goop of her classmates funny, but, hey, if she's going to tell us about it she's going to try to have fun with it. Because that's what's happened. One day she and her peers are sitting in class when a moment later they are all dripping bits of one of those peers. Then it happens again. And again. Only one place in the entire world, every victim a member of the senior class of Mara's high school.

People freak out, the media descends, and theories abound: terrorism, a virus, drugs, God, nanobots, genetics. The government gets involved. At one point they are quarantined. And Mara offers wry commentary on all of it, on the reactions of others and of herself. Somehow, she manages to give insight into life as a teenager, finding humor in experiences from the mundane to the extraordinary.

And, somehow, in the end, the idea of learning to live with the imminent threat of literally exploding becomes a metaphor for learning how to deal with life.

Bizarre, wise, vulgar, outrageous, and funny. I loved it.

ArapahoeCatherine Oct 10, 2016

It's rare that I give a one star review but this book was definitely not for me! It has SUCH a fascinating premise (spontaneous human combustion) but I found the execution lacking. And I found the main character completely unlikable.

Cynthia_N Oct 01, 2016

Yes! Spontaneous human combustion! Could you ask for more in a story? This combustion is explosion not fire but still a great read. The main character refers to the exploded teens as flesh-filled balloons. Ew!

What a kooky, wonderful ride Spontaneous is. To call this book a dark comedy is an understatement - it's uproariously original and funny and extraordinarily dark (turns out the threat of any character literally exploding at any second is just as tense as it is hilarious.) Spontaneous makes Heathers look like the Powerpuff Girls. This story is high satire and, like any good satire, there's so much to think about and consider after the last page is turned. Mara has a super original voice, and I loved how she broke the fourth wall in her narration. In this totally absurd story, though, there's so much truth about growing up (though it's subtle and never beats you over the head) and it resonated with both teen me and adult-me-looking-back-on-teen me. If you love Libba Bray or Andrew Smith, you'll love Spontaneous.


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JCLChrisK Jun 14, 2017

It’s in those moments of admitting and accepting your own terribleness that you realize other people can be terrible too. And if they can be terrible too, then maybe they can be vulnerable too, caring too, and all the things that you are and hope to be.

JCLChrisK Jun 14, 2017

It won’t surprise you to hear that I’m a skeptical person. I don’t even believe half the garbage that tumbles from my own mouth.

JCLChrisK Jun 14, 2017

Rumors are as important as anything. Even if they’re not true, they end up turning people into who they are.


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Oct 19, 2018

maplesyrupp thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over


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