Author: Sarah Ayoub
The Yearbook Committee is the new novel by Australian author Sarah Ayoub. Hate Is Such A Strong Word is her 2013 debut which created quite a buzz, I was really excited to read it but find that it is still on my TBR list; after having read and loved The Yearbook Committee I am more determined to make sure I get to it.
Five very different high school students are thrown together to create the yearbook, a project that only one of them signed up for. Every year a yearbook has been produced but it seems that the graduating class this year just aren’t interested, and the principal is not going to let that get in the way.
Generally the yearbook committee is made up of volunteers who want to get together and collate the memories of their school years, but not this year. Gillian volunteers for the committee, she has a blog and wants to help commemorate high school but the other four members of the committee were volunteered; Tammi was volunteered by her popular best friend so that she could control what made it into the pages, Ryan is volunteered by the principal to continue an extra-curricular activity, Matty is volunteered by the principal in lieu of a punishment and the deputy principal thinks it would be a great way for Charlie to get to know people.
Throw together 5 teens who don’t want to be there, don’t know one another and don’t really want to get to know one another and the sparks are going to fly.
The Yearbook Committee is an honest and insightful look at the interaction between these five very different teens and the way their time together changes the way they view each other, and the world around them. Matty is at the prestigious private school on a scholarship, Charlie has moved from Melbourne where she went to public school, Gillian is the geeky daughter of a politician who was close to invisible for most of her high school years, Tammi is the popular girl who too often caves to peer pressure and Ryan is the school captain who would prefer to be on the soccer field but he was injured and can no longer play.
An unlikelier team has not been seen in a while and their monthly meetings do little to inspire faith in their ability to meet the deadline. The first few meetings achieve very little except in-fighting.
Somewhere along the way this team manage to see beyond their differences and form an unlikely alliance. Tentatively the members begin to reach out to one another, at first it’s yearbook related but slowly they learn they may not be as different as they once thought.
Ayoub has written a touching and funny tale of today’s teens that is both sensitive and relevant. She tackles issues faced by teens everywhere but by placing them in a prestigious private school the divide seems larger. The scholarship kid who has to leave school right on the bell to make it to work on time is so far removed from the other kids that he’s never going to feel he fits in and when his grades start to slip and he should be talking to some one for help he tries to shoulder the weight of the family on his own.
The book was written in the first person by each of the five leads, which can get a little hard to follow – unless you are Sarah Ayoub and use a social media type format to begin your chapters with a profile pic and status. This helps us know a little more about our characters and their lives away from the yearbook. The narrative is interspersed with the Committee meeting minutes that no-one thinks are necessary but Gillian chooses to keep for her own reference.
I loved The Yearbook Committee and think it will definitely be one that I keep close to pass on to my daughter when she gets that little bit older, it will definitely still be relevant. It’s a story that won’t age. It covers themes of diversity, bullying, peer pressure, the need to have a backup plan in case your dreams shatter, family pressures and the need to lean on someone when things get too tough.
The Yearbook Committee is book #13 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2016