Title: The Yearbook Committee (2016)
Author: Sarah Ayoub
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 330 pages
Release Date: March 1, 2016
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?
The blurb of The Yearbook Committee reminds me of The Breakfast Club — essentially five students from different cliques forced to spend some time together and then later become friends. It also reminds me of Riley Redgate’s Seven Ways We Lie, which is a really great example of how multiple perspectives can add to a story. This book, however, is a little shakier, a little more confused, and overall weaker than those two titles.
I’ve said time and time again that I’m not a huge fan of multiple perspectives, the first major reason being they normally don’t add anything to the story (i.e. when it’s just different perspectives of the same scenes), and the second being that characters often sound the same. Personally, The Yearbook Committee succeeds with the former, but kind of fails with the latter.
Everything seemed uncertain, different, damaged. Just like the promise of our youth, now irreversibly changed due to a night whose sinister warning had been brewing steadily beneath the surface of our teenage dreams.
The multiple POVs in this book are used to further the story. Each character, for the most part, has their own life and problems, so whenever we switch to their chapter it’s a guarantee that the plot will move. Personality-wise, they are different and quite distinctive, but voice-wise, they still sound like one person speaking. If it weren’t for the obviously named chapters, I would’ve gotten lost ten times over.
We have five characters, all of whom has one distinctive trait to define them: Gillian (The Good Girl), Charlie (The Cool Girl), Tammi (The Popular Girl), Ryan (The Popular Guy), and Matt (The Loner Guy). Some of these characters play a larger part in the book while others, unfortunately, I feel are kind of thrown out the window when convenient.
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 facade, Facebook profile picture, group of friends.
It might be Ayoub’s intent to have some of these five in the spotlight and others not, but there were moments where I realised certain characters haven’t appeared in a while and wonder where they went. Because of this, they felt underdeveloped, and whatever changes they went through seemingly came out of nowhere. I’m also sad to say that I didn’t particularly like any of them (though I didn’t hate any of them), so there wasn’t much connection between me and the characters.
One great thing about The Yearbook Committee is that it deals with many serious issues: parent-children relationships, bullying, mental health, drug and alcohol use, and confusion about the future, among other things. The messages that Ayoub attempts to say through the characters are certainly relevant to today’s teenage generation:
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.
Ayoub’s writing style was fast-paced, light-hearted, engaging, and occasionally funny — overall quite suited to the tone of this book, at least until A Certain Something happened. I won’t comment too much on it other than saying that its abruptness made the whole incident seem a bit cheap, unfortunately, and I didn’t feel like the characters reacted to this Certain Something as emotionally or as well as they could, so it didn’t have much emotional impact on me either.
With five different characters and multiple subplots to conclude, it doesn’t surprise me when intentionally or not, Ayoub leaves some things open-ended, unfinished, unresolved. This was the biggest strike of the book for me, so even though I enjoyed reading the book and found it quick and overall engaging, I wouldn’t be actively campaigning for The Yearbook Committee. I’d still recommend it, but I would likely only mention it when specifically asked.