PHBC: THE YEARBOOK BY PETER LERANGIS
Posted by James Dawson on April 13, 2014
High IQ boy next door David Kallas only agrees to work on the yearbook to be near his crush, Ariana. However, when he discovers a corpse at the local make-out spot, David soon finds himself balls deep in a historical mystery, a yearbook that seems to predict who will soon die and a calcium-based squid monster from Greece.
This isn’t a joke. A calcium based squid monster from Greece.
Also…a BOY next door?
Yep. AND it’s told in first person. The Yearbook simply isn’t like any other entry in the Point Horror cannon. I’m not sure there were ever any other titles with a male lead. The author, Peter Lerangis is a hugely prolific author for children and young adults with some twenty titles under his belt.
I wouldn’t be hugely surprised if The Yearbook was not originally written to be part of the Point Horror range.
David could have time travelled back (not surprising given the timey wimey elements of The Yearbook) from a current John Green era novel. He’s pleasingly nerdy without being neurotic, he’s cute (until he gets lumps all over his face) and comes with both a past and present (timey wimey) including a bereavement. It’s nothing to do with his gender (Jenny Jeffers is as well rounded), it’s all in the excellent writing.
The Yearbook is sophisticated beyond the average Point Horror novel. The insinuation of teen sex (‘Ariana was discovering heaven in a Chevy’) and multiple deaths put this in a different camp, not to mention readership. The first person perspective of David allows him more humour and more of an inner world than most Point Horror girls. He’s also allowed to joke about shitting himself.
Ariana Maas, who sounds like a Mouseketeer, is no pushover. For most of the book she’s into secretly evil Smut (with whom she has the aforementioned car sex) and sees David as a bit of a sex pest.
However, as she’s from the Nancy Drew school of running a Yearbook, she seeks out David when things get weird and they fall in love like falling asleep: slowly and then all at once.
Ariana gets bonus gross out-points for biting heartily through a tentacle until goo spurts all over her face. That David is one lucky guy. With her thick red hair, Ariana gets 90′s TV star Alicia Witt to play her.
By and large, the writing is excellent, so the dialogue disasters are few and far between. Even the poems…very shaky in previous Point Horror offerings – remember Funhouse – are fun.
However, special mention for every line the immortal Reggie Borden says: ‘You-know-who is pretty bugged about the biting. If you don’t speak up you could both be sacrificed, dig?’ Reader, I am not hip to his jive.
Of course, the most hideous moment comes with the revelation that ‘Mark’s’ segments of the novel aren’t from the past, but the future. OR, in fact, 2016, when we’ll all be printing HOLOGRAMS IN OUR HOMES. Wow, futuristic. Get down off your hoverboard, Mark.
Finally. ‘Smoking gash’. Tee hee.
Body Count: Numerous, both past and present, but three ‘on-screen’ deaths. And they have their bones sucked out.
Did the best friend do it? No. Not that kind of horror.
Some Mild Peril
The gross corpses could be pretty spooky, but I’m afraid a Greek squid monster isn’t VERY scary whichever way you frame it. However, The Yearbook is certainly compelling. The unraveling mystery, if anything, could have been slowed down as the revelations come thick and fast with little time to breathe.
Mr DeWaalt, a sort of warty version of Mr Schuster from Glee, is definitely the creepiest addition in a ‘hey kids, where are the cool parties?’ kind of way. I bet he’s having an affair with Liz off the yearbook staff. Or he’s gay.
Is It Any Good?
Definitely. The Yearbook has made me question EVERYTHING. At the time, 1994, if I’m right, I HATED The Yearbook with a vengeance. It was all wrong. The voice was wrong, having a boy lead was weird, having a monster was bizarre. As a thirteen year old all I wanted was teenage girls being terrorised by their best friend in a weird mask. There was a formula, a VERY SIMPLE FORMULA and The Yearbook didn’t follow it.
As an adult reader, The Yearbook is head and shoulders above most of the ones we’ve covered. While there’s way too much going on, The Yearbook feels fresh and original. David is witty and funny and well-realised.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what this says, if anything, about adult and teen readers of my own books. I can only speak for myself of course, but as a 12 year old, I very much craved the regularity and predictability of series fiction, something I suspect has an enduring appeal with modern mid-grade readers and why The Yearbook isn’t remembered as fondly as say, The Babysitter.
Over to you…
1. Is the monster called Omphalos or Pytho? What’s Omphalos? I’m very confused.
2. Why does Pytho bother with an overly complicated numerical system to pick her victims?
3. WRITING TASK: Write the scene where Rachel Green (I KNOW) discovers her boyfriend has been eaten.
4. Why don’t Chief Hayes and Mr Sarro just pour the coke on Pytho and how does she survive?
5. Why is Mark such a douche?