SPONTANEOUS

A blood-soaked, laugh-filled, tear-drenched, endlessly compelling read.

A small New Jersey town is rocked by a disastrous phenomenon.

Mara Carlyle’s senior year is just beginning when Katelyn Ogden blows up—literally—during pre-calc. After the blood is cleaned off the walls and the class tries to move on, another student pops like a balloon during a therapy session. And then another combusts on the football field during the big game. The spontaneous combustions spread through the senior class in Mara’s suburban town, claiming kids of all colors, creeds, and class, seemingly sparing no one. No one but Mara, that is. As the white teen does her best to adapt to the increasingly absurd circumstances surrounding her, Starmer weaves a dark and hilarious tale that is unafraid to provoke laughs and chills in equal measure. Mara strikes the perfect balance between snark and smarts, providing quips and heart in equal measure. Her relationship with ice cream–truck–driving mystery boy Dylan, also white, deepens as their classmates burst all around them, and their love story is just as compelling as the mystery behind the explosions. The author has no trouble pushing these characters through hell, but the book reaches true greatness when readers see them on the other side and explore what’s left of them. Subplots involving an opportunistic scientist, a foulmouthed president, and a badass FBI agent push this one into must-read territory.

A blood-soaked, laugh-filled, tear-drenched, endlessly compelling read. (. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-525-42974-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

IF ONLY I HAD TOLD HER

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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