Hello hello and welcome or welcome back to my littler corner of the internet. Today I’m bringing you my review of The Yearbook by Holly Bourne, which combines themes of love, bullying and escapism to look back over the years of high school.
I never trust anyone who says that secondary school was the best years of their life. Beacuse normally those are the people making sure everyone else looks back on their years with horror. Paige, Holly’s protagonist, felt the same.
Trigger Warnings: bullying, domestic violence, slut shaming, parental abuse
The dramas, the traumas, the rumours – it’s time to expose it all… The Perks of Being a Wallflower meets Mean Girls in this scathingly funny and relatable high-school takedown from the queen of UKYA.
Most likely to…be forgotten
Working on the school newspaper, Paige is used to dealing with fake stories. How popular girl Grace is a such an amazing person (lie). How Laura steals people’s boyfriends (lie). How her own family are so perfect (lie).
Now Grace and friends have picked their “best” high-school moments for Paige to put in the all-important Yearbook. And they’re not just fake. They’re poison.
But Paige has had enough of all the lies in her life. And with the help of Elijah – the only boy who could ever understand her – she’s going to reveal the truth.
I must admit, I wasn’t entirely sure about sticking this book out, and it nearly ended up on the DNF pile, until Elijah came into the picture. It took quite a while for him to arrive on the scene, but when he did, it vastly improved the book as a whole. Although I can appreicate that Paige was delibrately alone for the first part of the book, I still found it hard to get into while she was.
The book made me face and think back to some harsh realities of my own school days, where I was badly bullied, and although I stuck up for myself, I’ve been left with unshifting trauma that still leaves me with nightmares and panic attacks half my life later. And quite frankly, I hadn’t thought about how fucking angry that makes me until I was reading the book. Until I sat there, reading Paige’s experiences, about all the cliques, and all The Awfuls, and how they exist in every single year group, and how they get away with it every single year.
Paige is also exposed to domestic violence at home. She talks about needing to keep the balance perfect and exist in nothingness, watching her father terrorize their homelife without being able to do anything about it. She walks on eggshells every day, and is constantly either ignored or gaslit by her parents. When she does find the strength to stand up against her father’s attitiude, she is dismayed to find her mother siding with him against her. While it would have been lovely to read a happily ever after for every woman being abused, this was far more realistic. And, without going into too many details – this side of the book hit home too.
The relationship between Paige and her Aunt Polly was a wonderful relief, both as a general reader and as someone who knows what it’s like to need an escape. The relationship with Elijah was beautiful in its organic nature, and it was beautiful to watch it grow from exchanging messages to clicking so naturally. It was one of the most realistic relationships I’ve ever seen portrayed in a YA novel, and I liked that a lot. Elijah provides the counter-weight to everything Paige is carrying, and helps her find herself, and who she wants to be, rather than who she is forced to be.
It was an uncomfortable read at points, but that is delibrate and important, and although it might not be the ideal ‘comfort read’ that some people look for in YA books, there is a reason that books like this are written. For people like me. For people like Paige. And for people like The Awfuls.