Title: The Yearbook Committee
Author: Sarah Ayoub
My Rating: 3.5 stars
This book was a good contemporary YA book that yanks at the heartstrings, makes you laugh and wish for more. I read this book in one day on two separate train trips and it kept me enthralled the whole time, despite there being some issues with it.
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?
This review has taken me a long time to write because I just can’t decide how I feel about it. I started with 4.5 stars and then dropped to 4 which has now dropped to 3.5 stars. I read this book and definitely would re-read it again but there are a few things I didn’t like.
I find that contemporary novels are some of the easiest to read which is why I love them. I speed-read this book in one day and really loved how it was based in Sydney. Being a Sydney-sider myself, I loved being able to really relate to what the culture is like in this book and how it’s written. OzYA has got some great authors and I am glad I’ve picked up a Sarah Ayoub book to check her out.
Following 5 stories was great and I loved all the different voices. I liked that there were boys and girls as the main characters and that they were all so different. None of the chapters seemed out of character as they progressed and it felt really natural as they explored their final year at high school. The idea that the yearbook is put together by people who don’t know each other is laughable because it could be such a disaster but the story had you wanting more and more.
The characters are very real. You have ones with friendship issues, others with family problems, some with physical issues and others who were just different and real. When I look at who my friend group consists of, I think of diversity and this book definitely has that in these 5 characters. They bounced off the page and into my heart which sometimes is hard to do now that I am so out of high school but I really enjoyed going on the journey with them.
I like the writing. It reads really easily, it is easily digestible and you just want to know more. I also love how all the storylines intertwine even though that brings some issues which I am still sorting through. I loved the characters of Gillian and Matty and could have seen more of them. The others were great too, but you know, you always have certain characters you love better!
This book has a really huge plot twist which was heartbreaking and awful and I think it’s one of the reasons I don’t really love the book. I understand why the author wrote it that way but nevertheless, I don’t like it. To be honest, it kind of soured the book for me. There’s no resolution to it either and overtime I flick through this book all I can think is that it just finishes.
The other thing that kind of bothered me was the popular girls at the school. I went to an all-girls school, with a grade of over 120 students. Our ‘popular groups’ were not like these ones. They weren’t this mean. I hate perpetuating this stereotype that there will always be a popular group at school who are terrible and for me that was just silly. It made the Tammi parts hard to read. I also hated that there was no on page retribution for anything they did. I mean, I know in the real life sometimes there isn’t justice but come on. Surely the book world can fix these things.
This book scratches the surface of a lot of issues and unfortunately since there is no retribution for the problems that come up, there is no time to address them. Issues such as drink spiking, illegal substances, bullying, slut-shaming, feminism are mentioned and play a role in the story but there is no real discourse about them. You get one discussion from a police officer and a few feminist rants in the book which barely scratches the surface. I understand that it is a YA book and you can’t go into essays about these issues, especially if so many are a part of your story, but I think there should have been a bit more discussion about them and what they mean. I feel like the book just ends and you’re left wondering what you are meant to take away from it.
Despite that, I did enjoy it while I read it and even after finishing it. Looking at it with a critical eye there are issues but I would still have a re-read in a year to see if I feel differently.
Recommended for: Contemporary YA lovers and people who love books about high schools.
Quotes (Spoiler Free):
“But sir, I’m seventeen,” I reply bluntly. “I’m genetically programmed to want to make statements.”
“That’s the thing about choices. They’re an act of knowledge, of faith, of love. It’s how we make them that sets us apart, because every single day, worlds are colliding, and our choices shape so much more than just our own story. And if we want to change this world for the better, then we must be the best possible version of ourselves, because who we are in each moment is a gift to the universe. This is what the present is: when the sum of one person’s past meets a world’s collective future.”
“The yearbook committee had started out as a random bunch of people who walked the same halls, sat the same exams, shared the ordinary school experiences that became extraordinary as we learnt to look beyond one another’s façade, Facebook profile picture, group of friends. Who knew after all those meetings, the five of us would not only accomplish what we set out to do, but become better people by knowing and learning from each other?”
Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!