Book vs Movie: Spontaneous

Hey y’all!

Okay, so one of my favorite books of the year (or last year, really, since that’s when I read it) has to be Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer. Because… well, it’s, in my opinion, number 1 in the comedic YA genre right now, which also happens to be my favorite genre (right now)!

Taken from Goodreads, here’s the book cover and description:

“Mara Carlyle’s senior year is going as normally as could be expected, until—wa-bam!—fellow senior Katelyn Ogden explodes during third period pre-calc.

Katelyn is the first, but she won’t be the last teenager to blow up without warning or explanation. As the seniors continue to pop like balloons and the national eye turns to Mara’s suburban New Jersey hometown, the FBI rolls in and the search for a reason is on.

Whip-smart and blunt, Mara narrates the end of their world as she knows it while trying to make it to graduation in one piece. It’s an explosive year punctuated by romance, quarantine, lifelong friendship, hallucinogenic mushrooms, bloggers, ice cream trucks, “Snooze Button™,” Bon Jovi, and the filthiest language you’ve ever heard from the President of the United States.”

The book itself is actually hilarious, and as I read it via audiobook format, I caught myself laughing out loud a couple times too many. I loved Mara as a character and narrator—she really is perfectly sarcastic even in the most dangerous and depressing of circumstances.

And then, well, when I heard Hulu was making an original movie based on this exact book… I hopped right on to watch it ASAP! And you know how people always say “oh, the book is always better than the movie…” Well, I don’t actually always think so, as there are times when the movie is better than the book.

Is this one of those times, though?

In terms of characters…

From the second I saw Mara’s face on the Hulu movie cover, I knew the book adaptation was going to be accurate. And then, when I watched the trailer and saw her in action, it was like I watching the actual real Mara Carlyle moving and talking in real time… as in, fourth-wall breaking down—I was convinced it really was the actual real Mara Carlyle and not the actress, Katherine Langford. You know what I’m trying to say here?

Movie poster image taken from Wikipedia

Katherine’s acting was so spot on, as the Mara I saw on the screen was, to me, the exact same Mara I heard/read in the book. So, A+++ on her part!

Mara isn’t the only character 100% portrayed accurately, though. I think, really, that all of the characters are played perfectly, from her best friend Tess to temporary boyfriend Dylan and even first student cursed to implode on the high school classroom walls, Katelyn Ogden (the girl who was beautiful, exhilarating, and had a flawless school record, but wasn’t entirely an implosive type of person!).

Perhaps most accurate of all, though, is Agent Carla Rosetti, whom I remember hearing endless descriptions of in the book. She’s supposed to be the most stone-faced, silently passionate, and tough as nails FBI cop you’d ever see. A little cliche, yes, but that just adds to the humor of the situation, since Mara tries consistently to crack inappropriate jokes to Rosetti at all the wrong times. And in the movie… well, yep, I took one look at her and said, “that’s super accurate.”

Pretty much all the other characters are just secondary ones portrayed as regular ol’ high schoolers. In the book, that’s what you read, and in the movie… that’s what you get!

Overall, I honestly don’t think the characters could be made any closer to the truth.

In terms of plot…

So, if you hadn’t figured it out by now, the book Spontaneous is about a senior high school class that just starts randomly exploding, one by one, without any known cause. And, well, the movie follows the exact same idea! I mean, not that it couldn’t not

But, really, all the basic plot points from book to movie do come up. From the (excuse the pun) explosive first day to the times the government gets involved in the students’ lives to the slightly unfortunate events that arise from middle to end. And we get the point across that the story’s all about average high school students struggling to survive and move on to college.

So, on that very vague note, I’m giving the movie another A+++ for sticking to the plot line. Because it doesn’t stray at all from the big events of the book… or, at least, I don’t remember it straying on any parts, so good on there!

In terms of scenes…

Now, again, when I read the book Spontaneous, I took everything in through audiobook format. So, it was kind of like just listening to the whole movie without the visual of a screen. A physical screen, that is, meaning not the imaginary one of my mind.

That being said, whilst “reading”, I got to hear the spontaneous combustions as they happened, but I didn’t get to physically see them. And I still laughed out loud at the sound of combustion in the book, so when I got to see it play out on the big/small screen… I literally laughed until my abs hurt!

There’s just something so humorously satisfying about watching blood splatter on an actor’s face at all the wrong moments…

Also, from scene to scene, I think things went pretty much straight from book page to movie script. I mean, the audiobook is a total running time of 10 hours, though, and the movie is only 1 and 1/2 hours long… so, obviously, some stuff had to be cut somewhere. Or a lot of stuff, really, but I think most of what was cut was just Mara’s lengthy, albeit hilarious, narrations. And I did kind of miss the sarcastic tone of Mara’s voice narrating in my ear all the time, but hey, a movie can only include so much of one character’s voice, so I’ll give a pass on that front.

I know some specific scenes had to be cut for time, too, but I just can’t remember which ones… so, they must not have been that important, I guess.

Although I do remember one scene from the book that was not brought into the movie… which was the part with the fictional female president of the United States speaking to the senior class, while they were being quarantined from the world, on a type of projector. Or maybe it was a TV, again, I can’t remember exactly, but I do remember it being the funniest scene of the book. At least in my opinion.

(Book spoiler alert in the following paragraph/block of text…)

Because, while talking to the students on the big screen thing, the president was trying to assure them all that everything was okay, it was fine, and it was going to be fixed and no more explosions would happen to anyone else. And then, of course, splat. Another student dead, blood all over the president’s face. And then the president let out the loudest “What the f***!” at the perfect moment. And then… I could not stop laughing.

Missing that scene from the movie was a small disappointment for me. The good news for everyone else is, though, that it’s probably just me that remembers it from the book and is the only one disappointed by the omission.

So, on this area, I’ll give a… B. Or, okay, B+.

So… final rating

Listen, this book is amazing, and I think the movie was pretty great, too. Both are extremely funny, comedic works of teen fiction, and I highly recommend each one to all of you guys to check out.

In fact, I think they’re pretty equal. So, in terms of ‘which is better,’ I’m giving a tie.

Haha, slight disappointment for you to hear, right?

At any rate, though, like I said, I recommend you go read Spontaneous the book and watch Spontaneous the movie right away. They’re both hilariously great times!

And, side note, Spontaneous the book and the movie reminded me incredibly eerily of my own YA comedy book What Now, Emma Lenford? Because Mara of Spontaneous and Emma Lenford of… well, What Now, Emma Lenford? are both such amazingly sarcastic, strong teen female characters. And I know you’ll love them both, trust me.

Let me know what you think/thought of Spontaneous… and, if you dabbled in both book and movie, which would you rate higher?

–Kari

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