PHBC: THE YEARBOOK BY PETER LERANGIS

Posted by James Dawson on April 13, 2014

41SA3EJ197LWhat’s it all about?

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.

What?

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.

The Boy

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.

Cyb6The Love Interest

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.

Dialogue Disasters

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.

9780590112918Next month we get seasonal with April Fools by Richie Tankersley Cusick. After Trick Or Treat, will Ms Cusick redeem herself?

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?

9 replies to “PHBC: The Yearbook by Peter Lerangis”

  • @PaulHi Says:

    Oh, I KNEW this was going to be a good one. The thing with The Yearbook is that you just don’t come across many novels about ancient calcium-nicking squid monsters with a penchant for serial murder based on unnecessarily complex mathematical formulae. I mean, I can think of less than a handful, IF THAT. So, yeah, if nothing else, Lerangis has got originality on his side.

    Fortunately, as well as being completely nutso, The Yearbook also happens to be brilliant. On the one hand, it’s a big, rambling headache of a book, incorporating, among other things, slavery, earthquakes, secret societies, ancient Greece, chemistry, witch trials, romance and time travel. On the other, it’s the most tightly plotted Point Horror ever written. Nothing is pointless or wasted; even a throwaway mention of the effects of Coke on personal dentistry turns out to be pivotal to the plot.

    And unlike most of its stablemates, the book also has a genuine sense of humour. David is actually funny, despite also being a bit of a perv, and there are definite shades of the male narrator from Christopher Pike’s Die Softly, whose name escapes me at the moment. So yes, two thumbs up for David, and also for bitey Ariana, who could so easily have been a simpering dullard, but is anything but.

    So much of The Yearbook plays against type (a male protagonist! A sympathetic police officer! A present and concerned parent!), that yes, I agree it can never have been intended as a Point Horror title. It doesn’t fit at all with the rest of the range, but it does spit on most of them from a great height. Frankly, any book that features a printing shop called Some Day My Prints Will Come gets my vote. Seriously, I love a shop pun; there’s an all-female decorating business near my house called The Painter Sisters (“We’re so excited!”). But I digress… My point is that living in a world where Stephenie Meyer is a household name but Peter Lerangis isn’t makes me a bit sad. Maybe I’ll “fax him a holo” (?!) to share my support.

    Finally, special mentions this month for the homages to Stephen King’s It (sewer monster villain, Lerangis’s ‘The Ramble’ a barely-disguised alternative version of Derry’s Barrens), as well as the horrific fish/classmate-gutting nightmare, and the inspired Ed Lyman hates rhymin’ poem (boy, Pytho really phoned that one in).

    Question-wise…

    1. Not a clue. Both Pytho and Omphalos were shit names, in my opinion. One sounds like a Godzilla nemesis, and the other sounds like a Care Bear. I’d have opted for something spiky, like Kraklaar. Or unexpected, like Janet.
    2. Pytho is a dick. There is no other reason. Stop being a dick, Pytho.
    3. ‘Rachel Green’ made me laugh out loud on the bus. Snort.
    4. Yes, both of these troubled me. Basically, she survived in order to make the flash forward stuff possible. It does seem that an extra couple of bottles of Pepsi would have finished her off.
    5. Well, they fuck you up, your mum and dad. It was the the granny I felt sorriest for. Imagine being lumbered with a stroppy teenager all over again, and not even being able to fax a holo to some relative for a bit of sympathy… :-(

    I remember LOATHING April Fools on the first go-around, so it’ll be interesting to see if my views have changed, 20 years on. See you next month!

  • James Dawson Says:

    Paul DID YOU SEE? Peter Lerangis tweeted me! It WAS always intended to be Point Horror! I KNOW. I’m really worried Richie Tankersley Cusick and Diane Hoh might see now…

  • @PaulHi Says:

    AAARRGGHHGGNNNGN! This is literally the most exciting thing that has ever happened. *burns the Hoh/Cusick evidence*

  • Catherine Says:

    ‘Omphalos’ means navel, and is the name of an ancient stone at Delphi which signifies the centre of the world (Zeus released two birds and they both flew right round the world and crossed at this point). You can still visit it (not the original though…).

    ‘Pytho’ also has a Delphic connection – Python was the monster fought by Apollo at the site (http://www.theoi.com/Ther/DrakainaPython.html).

    A very erudite thing to put into a Point Horror!

  • Emma Jones Says:

    I didn’t really like this book (shock as usually love PH) think it might appeal more to boys. The whole squid monster thing didn’t work for me. I’m more into ghosts, stalkers, vampires etc. I thought the counting system was odd & didn’t really add to the story and the end with the coke thing was weird. Why didn’t they just pour loads on? It did seem a bit ahead of its time which was good & felt different to other PH. Look forward to April Fools.

  • @PaulHi Says:

    I’m about a quarter of the way through April Fools and it’s making me furious. Roll on the 13th.

  • James Dawson Says:

    I just started yesterday. I am willing forgive a LOT because of Mrs Thorne.

  • Rachel Says:

    Looking forward to April Fools. I remember it being highly ridiculous and also only very tangentially related to April Fools Day… surely the plot could have happened at any time of year?

    I would love to see you recap:

    The Hitchhiker
    The Perfume
    The Invitation
    Halloween Night

    All entirely ludicrous if I remember correctly. Funhouse was my favourite at the time.

  • Billy Says:

    Wow. This was great! I never read this in my youth with the others, but I really enjoyed it. It’s only now, reading a PH with a male protagonist, that I realised how aimed at teenage girls PH really was! In my school, the girls read the babysitting club and Sweet Valley High, and the boys read PH!

    The male lead was very refreshing and David is probably the best character I’ve come across so far (except maybe the Tippler twins from Dream Date). As for Pytho. Well I’ve got to give Lerangis points for creativity and originality! When the school blew up, was anyone else slightly concerned that the librarian was probably still in there?

    To answer your questions:

    1. I’m thinking Pytho, but I’m liking Janet!
    2. No idea. You’d think if she was that smart, she could learn to live outside of a hole in the worst town in America and not be allergic to Coca-Cola.
    3. Rachel: hmmm, My boyfriend’s ring has a chalky residue on it. If he’s been sleeping around with that squid then I’m moving to New York to reunite with my old friend Monica.
    4. It’s a mystery. I’m sure I read somewhere they thought the gasoline would, rather than blow up the entire school, instead “pop open the cans”?!?! How dumb can you get? Now they have the librarian’s death on their hands!
    5. If I had to live with someone who insisted on being called “Yiayia” and invited friends round just to talk about my dead parents, I’d be a douche too.

    On to April Fools…

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