A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Spontaneous is packed with swearing, gory scenes, drug use, and sexual activity. It's also smart, wry, and wickedly funny, a sure hit with teens who find absurdity in the everyday. Written by Aaron Starmer, it's for much older readers than his Riverman trilogy. The story literally starts with a bang -- when the first student explodes in class, drenching classmates and the walls with blood. As the body count grows, the teen narrator copes by taking increasing amounts of drugs, drinking heavily, and engaging in a lot of sexual activity with her boyfriend. Background stories include a teen bullied so extensively she moved, and another who left when she became pregnant with triplets. As the school and larger community break down, some students openly drink and use drugs in the classroom. Class members are shunned and feared, and one is shot and killed by neighbors.
- Parents say
- Kids say
There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.
What's the story?
When Katelyn Ogden explodes at the start of SPONTANEOUS, people assume it's an isolated event. But then another student bursts in front of Mara and other traumatized students in therapy, and a third blows up at a football game. Soon Covington High is closed, the community is in shambles, and the government rolls into town. Is it terrorism, witchcraft, a government plot? Mara, meanwhile, is trying to figure out how to cope with the very real possibility that she -- and anyone else -- could die at any moment. She throws herself into an intense romance with Dylan, drinks and takes drugs, and marvels at her best friend, Tess, who keeps up with AP coursework and stays focused on planning for a future Mara fears will never play out.
Is it any good?
"Sieze the day" takes on new meaning in this twisted tale of high school seniors exploding unpredictably, leaving bloody body parts in their wake and triggering shock waves of fatalistic behavior. Mara, the self-centered, wry narrator of Spontaneous, reacts to the disaster around with a mix of freeing, adolescent pleasure-seeking and aggressively self-destructive behavior. Fear, guilt, excitement, and anger create a toxic brew.
Worried parents, concerned teachers, an FBI agent, and other adults want to help the unmoored students but are at a loss, unable to provide real aid or wise guidance. So the teens are abandoned to do as they see fit -- including serving alcohol at prom and taking drugs during sparsely attended classes. Some plot threads show more promise than they deliver and the ending offers no neat resolutions, muddying the book's message. But such is life.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the amount of language, sex, violence, and substance abuse in Spontaneous. Do you think it's portrayed in an appealing or negative light? Is it realistic? Appropriate?
Mara falls headlong into hedonism as her classmates disappear. Do you think her behavior helps or harms her ability to cope with what's happening?
Do you worry about losing friends as you head off to college and your adult future?
- Author: Aaron Starmer
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Friendship, High School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Dutton Books
- Publication date: August 23, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 368
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
Our editors recommend
For kids who love hororr and high school
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.