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.
So, I am really really really into the McElroy Brothers, much like a good section of the Internet. And I just love everything they touch (especially their number one product, the podcast/TV series My Brother, My Brother, and Me). So I’ve kind of stumbled into Griffin McElroy’s work for Polygon, including the Cool Games Inc podcast that he co-hosts with Nick Robinson. But, because I can’t consume media right away in its intended primary form, I’ve started by watching animated versions of various CGI segments, including the one below.
And it’s hilarious, and I love Griffin’s adoration for Carly Rae Jepsen (and she really is a stellar artist that deserves more critical love, and here’s “Store” if you’re curious about why Griffin chooses it as The B-Side To Blow Mozart’s Mind With), but can we talk about the initial prompt for a second? Cause it’s time for a readers advisory.
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.
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.
My first standalone ebook, Did You Leave Any For Me, is now available for purchase online, via Wayward Ink Publishing!
Did You Leave Any For Me: Two ex-lovers, one hotel room, and a random act of technology. Will they fall out, or will they fall back in love? Ollie and Shay are on-again, off-again boyfriends who have performed the “one last fling” dance so many times, it’s become routine. This time, however, their last fling might just become the start of something new.
A malfunction with the door lock of their hotel room leaves both Shay and Ollie trapped inside, at the mercy of the hotel staff, as well as each other’s prickly personalities. A lack of alternatives leads to the hashing out of old fights, the introduction of new fights, and a glimmer of hope that this years-old relationship can still be salvaged. Only time and a bottle of booze will tell whether their series of hotel mishaps is a blessing in disguise.
Been a while, hasn’t it?
My short story, “Did You Leave Any For Me”, once only available as part of the Stranded anthology, is now available for pre-order as a stand alone ebook via Wayward Ink. The book hits Internet shelves on April 9, 2015. Pre-order links can be found below:
Wayward Ink | All Romance eBooks | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU |
Barnes and Noble link will be available later.
Feel free to share any/all of the links above, or even pre-order your own electronic copy of my story! That would be really great. I’m looking forward to hearing what people think about it.
PS: This blog will be shifting from portfolio to a more writing/portfolio hybrid style. All the portfolio links will stay up, but posts will be more about my writing and upcoming publications. Keep calm and read on.
You can now read my short story, “Did You Leave Any For Me”, in the Wayward Ink fiction anthology Stranded.
The book is available in paperback and electronic form at the publisher’s website.