BOOK REVIEW: The Yearbook Committee by Sarah Ayoub
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell
Five teenagers. Five lives. One final year.
The school captain: Ryan has it all … or at least he did, until an accident snatched his dreams away. How will he rebuild his life and what does the future hold for him now?
The newcomer: Charlie’s just moved interstate and she’s determined not to fit in. She’s just biding her time until Year 12 is over and she can head back to her real life and her real friends …
The loner: At school, nobody really notices Matty. But at home, Matty is everything. He’s been single-handedly holding things together since his mum’s breakdown, and he’s never felt so alone.
The popular girl: Well, the popular girl’s best friend … cool by association. Tammi’s always bowed to peer pressure, but when the expectations become too much to handle, will she finally stand up for herself?
The politician’s daughter: Gillian’s dad is one of the most recognisable people in the state and she’s learning the hard way that life in the spotlight comes at a very heavy price.
Five unlikely teammates thrust together against their will. Can they find a way to make their final year a memorable one or will their differences tear their world apart?
Touted by many as The Breakfast Club of this generation, the fact that this story focuses on five different stereotypes of high-school students wrangled into a project against their will does attempt to back this notion up. But when it comes to heart, dialogue, story, humour, and overall enjoyment, this book is sadly lacking.
While it aims to be a heartwarming and cautionary tale and attempts to deal with crucial teenage stressors like fat-shaming parents, mental health, Down syndrome, online bullying (as well as the real-world sort), moving cities and leaving all your friends behind, peer pressure, drug use and so on, it honestly felt like the author was trying to cover too many bases
Somehow, in telling so many things at once, and with an awful lot of coincidences if you ask me, the lessons in this story were rendered cheap and preachy.
But a few other things helped bring down my rating:
The writing and dialogue were both rather stiff and simple, and at times the narrative reiterated things in an effort to draw teaching points for the readers, which only managed to distance this reader. Overall, the writing felt like it was for a much younger audience than the age of the characters; early teens at most, but obviously some of the elements would be too adult for that younger bracket.
The characters were underdeveloped and at times particularly frustrating. The fact that there wasn’t much in the way of character to begin with managed to keep the ways in which they “changed” from being particularly noticeable or surprising.
Perhaps it was the style of the telling, with 300 pages covering the whole year and divided up among five characters, but the whole story felt like a series of snapshots, which might be a little punny when it comes to a book about a book full of snapshots, but this only served to distance the reader from character changes further because we weren’t with any of them for long enough to really care.
The girl who is an Australian size 12 and who is fat-shamed constantly by her mother doesn’t realise that a tub of ice-cream won’t be seen as a peace offering by said mother. While this is obviously there to highlight how horrible their relationship is, the reader is intelligent enough to understand that by this point, and it feels like a silly move on the part of the teenager/a really forced move on the part of the author.
The girl who is the daughter of a cop and wants to be a cop herself (though that vibe isn’t given off much throughout the story, she just says she wants it a lot while showing off her extremely bad judgement/instincts) stays in a relationship for months with a boyfriend who is trying to pressure her into having sex when she’s not ready. She also doesn’t see what’s wrong with a guy who calls two passing cops “pigs” and says he “effing hates cops” before handing her some tablets that he says are just “herbal” and not illegal.
There were several minor issues throughout the book, with words missing or the wrong words used, but the most obvious, annoying, and repetitive instance was the use of the word “floor” where the author meant “ground”.
Then I hear a car rev its engine and see it speeding down the road ahead of me. It screeches to a stop near where the thief now is, and two guys get out.
The thief tosses the satchel to the floor and turns down a side street, just as the two guys and I meet at the corner.
Now that one in particular could be read as him throwing the bag inside the car, and gets a little confusing until you realise that the guys weren’t friends of the thief.
‘Maybe don’t leave it on the floor unattended next time,’ I say.
‘Then I saw this girl accidentally leave her bag on the floor outside, and as soon as she did, he, like, crossed the road in this really subtle way and just grabbed the bag and kept walking.’
‘She has to be if she left it on the floor,’ Mum says.
‘I don’t want to lose my virginity on the floor of someone’s backyard,’ I tell him honestly.
Not once did any of these instances refer to an area inside a building. The very definition of a floor is the lower part of a room or building upon which one walks. And the definition of ground is the surface of the earth. So why was this repeated incorrectly so many times, and why was the word floor used when the sentence would have been so much smoother and more clear with the word ground? How did that slip past editing?
All in all this was a quick, easy read, and if you like your teenage books rather light while attempting to offer moral lessons, this isn’t a bad one, but it could have been handled a lot better. This was not a great fit for this reader who likes her characters well developed, her character growth shown rather than told, and her writing a little smoother, but a lot of people are raving about this book, so maybe it’s just me.
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