Monday, December 3, 2012

Review: Yearbook

by Ally Condie
Series: Yearbook #1
Paperback, 231 pages
Published September 15th 2006 by Shadow Mountain
Age Recommendation: Young Adult

Summary (from Goodreads):
It was the first day of school at Lakeview High, and everyone was afraid of something. Michaela Choi was afraid that Ethan Back was never going to ask her out on a date. Andrea Beck was afraid that someone would find her weak spot, the chink in her armor. She was afraid of knowing what it was herself. Principal Downing was afraid she was going to die. Julie Reid was afraid that no one would notice her. She was also afraid that someone would. And there was a deeper, unnamed fear inside her that she couldn't escape - a fear that she was nothing and no one . . . Yearbook is a captivating story about relationships and heartaches and fears and ideas and doubts and testimonies and everything that a teenage mind and a backpack can contain. But most important, Yearbook is a novel about how everyone has something to offer and something to learn.

I bought Yearbook at an Ally Condie signing last year with no idea what it was about. I am glad that in this case I dove in blind, because I definitely enjoyed this book that I normally would stay far away from. I didn't know that the book had an LDS element, and as someone with very little exposure to those beliefs, it was a totally new experience for me to read about a belief system new to me and different from my own.

Mostly, I enjoyed the beautiful writing - one of the quotes still sticks in my head even though I read the book more than a year ago:
"The doors to the school swung open once, twice, a thousand times, and all the students came in, bumping into each other and walking down the hall together and passing one another. They brought backpacks and watches and notebooks and ideas and heartbreaks and earphones and aspirin and makeup and mirrors and memories and testimonies and doubts and questions. Stories were everywhere. The bell rang, and the school year begun."
The story switches perspectives between a number of different characters (7, I believe) who all attend the same school and follows the ebb and flow of each of their journeys. In any other book, 7 POVs would be too much (looking at you, Rick Riordan), but in Yearbook, it seemed perfectly balanced. Every character (amazingly) had a distinct voice and no one seemed lost in the jumble.

I really enjoyed stepping out of my comfort zone with this books and reading something very different than the usual. I appreciated that while Yearbooks had a religious element, it was not the ultimate solution to all problems. One character especially found solace in religion, but I was able to read (and enjoy) the story without feeling like the characters' values were being preached or shoved at me. For this gentle touch, I thank you, Ally Condie. (A side note: I personally did not find this element be too much for me, but I bear in mind that everyone has their own comfort level.)

Overall Thoughts:
Even as a person who doesn't read contemporary as a rule, I have to say, Yearbook was a beautifully written story that engaged me with its lovely prose and complex characters. Recommended for anyone willing to take a chance on something new.

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