The cover of Spotaneous by Aaron Starmer.
Mara Carlyle’s senior year at Covington High in suburban New Jersey is going on as normally as could be expected, until the day—wa-bam!—fellow senior Katelyn Ogden explodes during third period pre-calc. Katelyn is the first, but she won’t be the last senior to spontaneously combust without warning or explanation. The body count grows and the search is on for a reason—Terrorism! Drugs! Homosexuality! Government conspiracy!—while the seniors continue to pop like balloons. (Source: Goodreads)
I only heard about this book because a homework assignment for my reference class had me looking through YALSA’s top teen books of 2017 as I was building a hypothetical reading display for a summer book club for local youths. And, as one can guess, SPONTANEOUS by Aaron Starmer was on a list of said topn teen books. Naturally, once I saw a story about teenagers exploding in class, I knew I 1) had to add it to my hypothetical display and 2) read it myself.
Folks who follow me on Twitter might be surprised that I am reviewing this book, maybe as much as they are surprised by how much my opinion of this book shifted from “it’s okay” to “I am going to possibly cry in a public area because this book has grabbed me by the chest and refuses to let go” — but I can explain.
Amara is never alone. Not when she’s protecting the cursed princess she unwillingly serves. Not when they’re fleeing across dunes and islands and seas to stay alive. Not when she’s punished, ordered around, or neglected. She can’t be alone, because a boy from another world experiences all that alongside her, looking through her eyes… (Source: Goodreads)
Some vague spoilers that will only make sense if you’ve read the book are in this review. I’ll try to keep things vague but fair warning, they are in here.
Irony, kind of: I go out of my way to read the UIUC YA bookclub pick for last month – OTHERBOUND by Corinne Duyvis – going so far as to say on Facebook I’m going, only to find myself stuck in my room during meeting time because I stupidly made a dental appointment the same day several hours before bookclub and have you ever spoke coherently and thoughtfully about anything after both a root canal and a tooth extraction? I didn’t think so. Thus, I was left to wallow in my OTHERBOUND thoughts, underheard, until now.
I’m sorry for the radio silence! Between classes, the job hunt, and wrangling health insurance from my school, it’s been a busy week and a half. I actually have some posts coming down the pipe in the next couple of days or so, but until then, I’d like to share with you some of the interesting articles I’ve been reading when I’ve had the time to.
One of the better books I read this month was Democracy’s Muse by Andrew Burstein, an examination of Thomas Jefferson as a political role model to a wide variety of movements, from Jacksonian Democrats and FDR to Reagan Republicans and the Tea Party. It was a truly fascinating examination of a multifaceted historical figure, and how the ideology and writing of one man can be easily twisted and flipped around by folks of all kinds to serve into one viewpoint or another. Burstein also examined how Jefferson’s legacy has shifted in the wake of his sexual relationship with his female slave Sally Hemings and his religious views.
Democracy’s Muse was an interesting read considering that earlier this year I read American Sphinx by Joseph J. Ellis; the former laid out Jefferson’s self as seen by his successors, the later laid out Jefferson’s self as seen in a more historically placed context, less futuristic in its lens. Dovetailed together, the two books created a much fuller image of Jefferson than I had previously in my mind.
It is also interesting that the issue of legacy is so prevalent in this texts, considering that it is also a main theme in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s uber popular award-winning (Tony award winning!) musical, Hamilton, based on the Ron Chernow biography. Hamilton tries to protect his legacy but takes a disastrous misstep with the publication of the Reynolds Pamphlet, which destroys his political career and kicks off the first legitimate Washington sex scandal in U.S. history. But his immense library of writings, the financial systems and institutions he created, kept his name in the history books as a creator of things, not just a married man who slept with a married woman. Unfortunately, Hamilton worried so much about his legacy while he was living that he didn’t seem to see how secure it really was.
There needs to be a word, probably some sort of German compound phrase, for the feeling a person has when they are reading a book that on any other day would be a good book, but on that particular day, it is just not happening. The characters fail to grab one’s attention. The plot seems wholly inspired. The dialogue sticks in the throat. If only, they lament, they had not read that really good book right before it, the one that kept them up all night and into the morning, flipping pages with impossible speed.
This is happening to me right now. What is the word for it? Other than a deep sinking feeling of disappointment that is frankly self-inflicted. I flew too high and now I plummet, on the wings of a book that deserved better.
I spent a good chunk of fall 2015 reading the number one Alexander Hamilton biography ever written, by famed writer and now Broadway famous Ron Chernow. This along with the Hamilton Broadway show has invigorated my passion for American Revolutionary War-era history, as well as the stories of the Founding Fathers, topics I’ve been interested in since an early childhood of social studies classes. I fell in love with the romantic side of it, the battle for democracy against the oppressive monarchy, as well as the harsh reality of early warfare. I also gained a major crush on the Marquis de Lafayette, America’s adopted son and favorite fighting Frenchman – but, hey, so did George Washington, so you can’t blame me.
It also helped that my favorite musical is the quintessential American story 1776, which kickstarted my historical crush on Benjamin Franklin as well as an appreciation for the “obnoxious and disliked” John Adams. But the one who really ending up standing out the most was the redheaded, quiet powerhouse with a quill, who played the violin and delivered the document that would declare an entire nation’s independence: Thomas Jefferson.