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Spontaneous

Book cover

Spontaneous

Aaron Starmer
5
Wednesday, Jul 12, 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.

I didn’t really count Perry myself, but that still made this my fifth time. I’d seen more of these than anyone. I’d forgotten that. As much as this was a shared experience, I was the reigning champ of spontaneous-combustion-witnessing.

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.

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A few more samplings:

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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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.

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He reached his hands toward the door and I figured what the hell. I’d never been in a silo before, and while that’s not exactly bucket-list worthy, it’s something to do when you’re with a boy who intrigues you, scares you, and turns you on in equal measure.

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Making efforts was not exactly my forte. I always had great ideas, of course. I would have been perfect for a think tank. Think tanks are a thing, right? Organizations where people sit around and come up with solutions to the world’s problems? I would have been a shoo-in for one of those. However, if do-tanks are also a thing—as in, organizations that actually do s***—then you would have had to count me out. On account of, well, laziness.

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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.

Chris K.

Written by Chris K.

Fun fact: Experts estimate that the average cruising airspeed velocity of an unladen European Swallow is roughly 11 meters per second, or 24 miles an hour.

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