If you haven’t heard of this book, don’t stress yourself. I didn’t know about it until it was available via my library app. I went into this book blind and I think that was the best thing to do. This is the most unique concept for a YA book I have come across in years. Two words for you, ladies and gentleman: Spontaneous Combustion. That’s right!
This story opens with our protagonist, Mara Carlyle, a senior attending a high school in New Jersey. Everything changes one day when one of her classmates suddenly explodes in the middle of class. KA-BOOM! Gone. Nobody has any idea what is going on, what caused this to happen, or what triggers it. While the entire community is mourning the lost of a student, the entire nation is glued to the small town in hopes of figuring out what is going on. The FBI arrives and launches a huge investigation. The entire country wants to know why only kids from this senior class are exploding yet nobody has answers. While the FBI tries to figure this out, more and more kids keep blowing up so every student is fearful they will be next.
This book had me actually laughing out loud. That doesn’t happen too often. Come on, how often does one get to read a book about kids spontaneously combusting? The level of dark humor in this book was delightful! Then again, I may just have a warped sense of humor. Regardless, I enjoyed this book more than I probably should. I was invested in Mara and her journey to help figure out why her classmates were popping like balloons. Mara was so very snarky, with a touch of crass, and it worked very well with this story. She told it like it was and I, as the reader, appreciated it. She didn’t sugar coat anything, she was real. The girl was also fearful that she herself might go KA-BOOM any minute so she chose to life her life to the fullest… or as much as she could as a teenager.
I really liked Mara, and I really liked the rest of the characters. I really did enjoy the tight friendship between Mara and Tess. Tess was her lifelong best friend and to see how much they relied on each other was beautiful. I think the topic of ‘frienship’ was big in this story. Only the students knew for sure what the others were going through, having to watch their fellow classmates pop into nothingness. They depended so much on each other that it was nice to see that as one of the main topics. Yes, there is a bit of romance in this book but thankfully it is not prominate enough to really change the story at all.
There are some great scenes in this book that caught me by surprise. The students turned the school swimming pool into a beach front so everyone could enjoy Spring Break. They found a way to hold their own prom. They were determined to try to remain as normal as possible. At one point, the President of the United States gave a Skype call to the senior class and she witnessed a teenager explode. The POTUS started cussing like a sailor and I was bent over in laughter. It just shows that Starmer was not afraid to take risks with this story.
The ending of the book is either going to make readers happy, or piss them off. I’m not sure there will be an inbetween. Full answers are not given so readers may not be okay. In a nutshell: you will either love it or hate it – there really is no inbetween.
I enjoyed reading this book and I hope other readers give it a chance. This story has been picked up for film adaptation so I’m very excited to see if it makes it to the big screen. This was such a unique topic that I couldn’t pass up reading it. I hope everyone gives it a chance. If you do, let me know!