Tuesday, 16 December 2008

The Yearbook - Peter Lerangis

I have massively mixed feelings about The Yearbook. I remember it as being absolutely insanely awesome, and it kind of is, but it also left me feeling sorta…empty. Maybe it’s because the front cover pretty much gives away everything of note that happens in the book:

I could just let you feast your eyes on the lovingly depicted tentacle monster and leave it there. But I won’t. That would be cruel.

The Yearbook holds the privileged distinction of being entirely narrated from a male point of view. I don’t know about you guys but I can’t think of any other Point Horror written from a guy’s point of view? It’s also contains little gems like this: “I saw Ariana beside me, flailing, borne on one thick, oozing tentacle.” Cough, cough.

Anyway, David Kallas lives in a town called Wetherby, and he’s our narrator, as well as being a genuine genius. Except he’s a really lame kind of genius who isn’t particularly good at anything. Perhaps solving tentacle monster based mysteries will be his forte? Fingers crossed!

Sex is mentioned directly on page 4. I guess that’s what you get when you let a seventeen year old guy take the lead position in a Point Horror book. David has a major hard on for a girl called Ariana Maas, who he’s working on the yearbook with. Sadly, Ariana has a boyfriend called Smut who’s also on the yearbook team, so David isn’t involved in any of the sex himself. What he is involved in is finding putrid corpses in a river next to a pipeline and not telling anybody about it.

Next day at school, everyone is buzzing with the news that some kid called Rick Arnold is missing and David spills about his gruesome corpsey find to Chief Hayes. Chief Hayes is, like, this big black dude who gets all teary eyed and tells the story of back in high school when him and his best friend Reggie Borden got bullied by racists, and then Reggie went missing. And then a bunch of other kids went missing and their corpses turned up, but not ol’ Reggie’s. Chief Hayes mentions some weird secret society that used to meet in the school’s basement and his suspicion that it was some sort of Klu Klax Klan thing (pretty heavy for a PH).

Sooooooo, who wants to hear some backstory? Sure you do! So, David and Ariana met when she saved him from a falling tree branch during a small earthquake (seriously). The last earthquake to hit Wetherby was 50 years ago – right around the time all those other kids went missing. Hmmmm.

Also – the yearbook team is advised by a teacher called Mr DeWaart, who is described thusly:

“Mr DeWaart was weird. No question. His nickname was Wartface, because of his last name and two large moles on his right cheek and left hand.”

RL Stine, are you READING this?? I hope you’re on the phone to your lawyers like, right NOW.

Anyway, Mr DeWaart holds a little party at his house (inappropriate much) and the students start competitively twisting cherry stems into knots with their tongues, and it is meant to be totally HOT when Ariana does it. I remember spending ages trying to teach myself how to do that when I was like eleven, now I guess I know where it came from. Thanks for the memories, Point Horror.

Anyhow, it’s David’s job to proofread the yearbook but he doesn’t really do it right, and all these nasty pictures of Rick Arnold’s corpse make their way into the book in place of the kids who didn’t show to have their pictures taken. Oh, and a bunch of the students also get crappy yet creepy poems written under their names basically warning them that they’re about to die. This is my favourite of the poems:

”Ed Lynan
Hates rhymin’
See ya, Ed.

Very beat.

Rick Arnold also has one of these very poems under his name, and, lest we forget, he is very much D.E.A.D. There’s an uproar, etc etc, the scene is set for some murder and I'm rubbing my grubby little hands together in delight.

Oh well, Rick Arnold is pretty much forgotten about as we move on (sorry, Rick). Mr DeWaald, and Smut, together with a few other elite students have a little club called The Delphic Society and they get together to have philosophical chats about things. It’s all very hush hush. Ariana isn’t too keen on it because some girl called Monique Flores is in the club and she has a crush on Smut. With a name like Monique Flores she certainly sounds like trouble. Kinda brings to mind this little minx:

David decides to find the Delphic Club’s top secret location and catch Smut and Monique macking so Ariana will be all his. He sees Smut with his arm around Monique and he’s all ‘yesssss, now I know for sure Smut is a cheat.’ Umm, David? I’m pretty sure that putting your arm around someone doesn’t count as cheating . Anyway, David then finds the club’s secret meeting place by going through a revolving bookcase thingamajig in the basement (how very Addams Family). There have been rumours about underground societies operating out of the basement circulating since at least the 50s, and this looks like a likely location for them.

Things start getting weird. There’s a crack in the floor of the secret room, and smoke’s billowing out and David suddenly starts chuckling without knowing why, and feeling weirdly powerful and like he wants to stay in this room forever and stuff. Then he blacks out, as usual.

Whilst blacked out, he has this weird dream about some kid called Mark who lives with his grandma because his parents were sick and now they’re missing, presumed dead.

Ariana finds David passed out. (what a turn on for her). She’s all hysterical, because she’s just found a corpse of her very own, stuffed into a pipe in some nearby construction works. The pair bond over their corpse finding abilities, and David thinks the following:

“I was already feeling better, until I started to laugh, which was like inviting Arnold Schwarzenegger to sit on my head.”

How 90s.

So, Ariana and David kiss until David goes and ruins everything by telling her about Smut and Monique. Ariana runs away in an angry tizzy, upset that David is basically spying on her life. Bah.

This time, David reports the corpse right away, It turns out it’s John. I haven’t bothered to mention him, so you’ll have to take my word for it that David and John were pretty tight, and David is upset by his death for at least a page or two. Chief Hayes tells David that this could be the work of a serial killer.

David and Ariana decide to put aside their argument and work together to figure out what’s going on. They go down to the secret room and find some kid called Jason trapped by this giant tentacle monster that’s emerging from the smoky crack, which incidentally has widened to the size of a ‘gash.’ (hee hee)

Yeah, I know, it happens completely out of the blue. They just…they just suddenly see this monster. I kind of feel like I haven’t given you enough of a build up or something, but then again that’s pretty much how I felt reading the book so I guess you’ll have to live with it or die trying.

David jumps in to try to save Jason, and there’s a really weird sequence where David’s in the hole and three old fashioned disembodied voices are talking to him, telling him that it isn’t yet ‘his time.’ He needs to ‘find out who we are’ first. The voices also tell him that he is ‘inside the Omphalos’ When he emerges from the hole, David’s hair is turned white by the experience, I guess that Peter Lerangis wrote that in so that he wouldn’t have to show David having any kind of emotional response to what’s happening.

OK, and before Jason died, David saw him with some tall black dude with a lumyp face who was supposedly called George Derbin. Putting his credentials as a genius to good use, David figures out that George Derbin must actually be – gasp – Reggie Borden. This is because George Derbin is an anagram of Reggie Borden, and ummm, they were both young, black and very tall. Good old anagram puzzles and racial profiling, working hand in hand to solve murders since ’94.

Since emerging from the hole, David has this weird lump on his head. Chief Hayes has a similar lump on his ankle from a strange encounter he once had with a singing group in the secret room, and he describes it as a calcium bump. Matching calcium bumps, how sweet, now I know what to ask for for Christmas. And George Derbin/Reggie Borden also has a lumpy face, which is another link between him and the tentacle business in the hole.

At home, David just happens to flick through some honeymoon pics of his mom and (dead) dad, and just happens to find a picture of them in Greece at the site of some ruin labelled as The Omphalos. His mom tells him it means belly button – the centre.

David dreams of that Mark kid again – this time Mark is 17 and he’s identifying his grandmas body in a morgue. His parents are still missing, so he’s going to have to be sent to be looked after by a foster family. We also get the big reveal in this dream that it’s 2016, whoaaaaa, it’s a FLASHFORWARD dream, I half expect the twist to be that the corpse he's indentifying actually belongs to John Locke ("Don't tell me what I can't do!".)

But it doesn't. And Mark’s going to be sent to Wetherby, to live with a guy called Walter Ojeda, a widower – UH OH, I don’t know about you but that name sure sounds like an anagram to me! An anagram of…murder. Oh wait, that totally doesn’t work, forget I said anything. Oh, and check this out, in a flashy example of the hi-tech future awaiting us, the police officer ‘faxes’ Mark a ‘holo’ of Walter. To recap, that’s a hologram picture sent by fax, nice one Lerangis, where can I purchase my shiny new holo-fax from?

David decides to figure out who two other crack voices are (with Reggie Borden being the third). So off he trots to the library to have a leaf through this book that basically documents everything that’s happened in Wetherby since 1683 or something, what a terribly useful book. He figures out they belong to Jonas Lyte, who went missing in 1862 and Anabelle Spicer, who was burned at the stake as a witch in 1686. Being a genius, David naturally also figures out that the dates follow a pattern – a pattern that is constantly halving itself. Gasp! And the tentacles monster is killing students based on their student numbers. Wow, I’ve never met a tentacle monster who loves maths as much as this one does. According to David’s calculations, the next victim will be – Ariana!

Are you still with me? Phew, the nonsensical nature of this book sure does make it difficult to recap. But I’ll struggle on, just for you, because you’re looking so pretty today. Have you lost weight? Your hair looks lovely by the way. And you smell divine.

David runs off in search of Ariana, but she’s gone to head off the Delphic Club… *sigh*, walking right into the trap. The Delphic Club are in the secret room chanting and wearing crazy Polyphonic Spree style robes, they also appear to be under some kind of spell. Mr. DeWaart is leading from the front, and David realises those aren’t warts at all..but..calcium lumps! WTF. And Mr. DeWaart admits that he works for the tentacle monster. My head hurts so much.

Ariana is in the crevice, trapped between some tentacles. David rushes over to save her, and blacks out once again, I can't exactly claim to be surprised.

In David’s dream world, Mark has moved to Walter’s house, and taken all his parents’ old boxes with him, he’s reading their papers for the first time. Both his parents had been very sick, and covered in tumours (or LUMPS) that weren’t cancerous but were out of control. If you don’t see where this is going yet then I really do worry for you.

David wakes up from his Mark dream, he’s on some weird yellowy floor beneath a column/tree trunk thing with three people sitting on one branch each – an older white man, a young white woman, and a teenage black man, all wearing special robes. It turns out he has worked out all their identities correctly as well. They call themselves priests and they’re pretty jokey and flippant, man the tone of this book is WEIRD.

David figures out that the tentacle monster wasn’t always in America, it originates from ancient Greece, and was the oracle at Delphi. Well, I must interject here to say I’m pretty well versed on my classics and before now I’ve never come across anything to suggest that the oracle at Delphi might be a giant tentacle monster. So bravo, Peter Lerangis, for your brave dedication to history, and to the truth.

The priests tell David and Ariana that they can only make one of them into a priest, the other has to be sacrificed, and they need to choose which one. But the little lovebirds refuse to let go of each other. It gets more smokey and things start exploding, and Jonas says that when the pain gets too great, and the growths become too much to endure, they’ll be back, because only the tentacle monster will be able to save them. But for now they’re free, I guess because love saved the day or some other nonsense.

Ariana and David are both covered in lumps all over their faces. The ledge comes into view, and Chief Hayes is there with the janitor, Mr Sarro, who’s drinking a can of coke. Accidentally spilling a drop of coke onto the monster wall, a chunk of the wall sizzles away. Don’t worry, this whole coke thing isn’t quite as clumsy as you think, Lerangis was at great pains to mention that Mr. Sarro is ALWAYS drinking a can of coke earlier in the book, so that’s OK then.

Since the monster feeds on calcium or is made of calcium or Jesus Christ who cares, and coke dissolves calcium then ummmm….hang on a minute, is it just me or am I LEARNING stuff here? If there’s one thing I hate it’s being tricked into learning stuff.

The gang stock up on coke (AND pepsi, just to be fair to all the major corporations I guess.) They spray it all over the tentacle beast and stuff like this happens:

“At the top of the tripod, the three priest were gyrating. Their movements were jerky and involuntary, as if cockroaches had crawled into their robes. Their eyes bulged, and their mouths seemed to be peeling backward, stretching across their faces.”

I know what you’re thinking – “wow, that sure sounds like a weird thing to happen, I wonder what our beloved characters reaction to it was?” Well, you’re in luck:

“Chief Hayes and Mr Sarro looked as if they were competing for widest mouth of the year.”

Then Chief Hayes covers it in gasoline and sets it on fire. David and Ariana run up onto a hill and watch Wetherby BURN, and they’re all, OMG, I hope some people survived.

That’s it for David, in the final chapter of the book we’re with Mark again. And he has just finished reading the very same book as us! Yes, Ariana and David are his parents. And Walter Odeja is actually Mr. DeWaart! Oh, Wartface! I’m sooo maddddd at you right now!

Mark quickly goes and finds the tentacle monster thing, and…his parents are there! They’re alive, he isn’t an orphan after all! Also there are Chief Hayes and Mr Sarro. And umm, they all hold hands to fight the monster, because it can only be destroyed, by like, love...or solidarity, or pepsi or something. The end.

Conclusion: What the hell just happened? I don’t think I can really say anything more than that. I guess that this book makes me feel like I’ve just suffered a major trauma to my head with a blunt instrument, but in a really good way.

Next time: The Snowman, by none other than old Wartface himself, RL 'I take all major credit cards’ Stine.


astrantia said...

I bet Lerangis wished he could have made this plot into a Babysitters Club book. :P

Great recap, even if I... really don't get it. Your recaps are always hilarious!

Fear Street said...

Tentacles...a guy called Smut...calcium lumps and warts...it's just insanity!

I can't wait for 'Snowman'.

Anonymous said...

eeek! i read this when i was younger, but must have blocked the whole thing from my memory - strange weird storyline!! awesome recap though, makes me want to pay that penny on amazon to buy it!

'Snowman'? Awesome!!!

Anonymous said...

Bloody genius. I don't know if Point Horror is still around, but I would love to be one of their team of stock authors writing this stuff. I just can't get over how unlikely it is for a book to have this plot.

The Babysitter said...

Yeah, this one is worth reading, Lerangis actually cracks some pretty good jokes along the way. I guess maybe this is one of the later ones and the publishers were just like 'fuck it, let's go with the tentacle thing.'Or maybe someone was drunk.

And I agree with you, Anonymous, writing these books would be the most awesome job ever.

Taren said...

You mean he does things other than ghostwrite BSC books? Well my mind is blown! :P

Tom said...

What the hell was all that about ... you will enjoy the Snowman much more, it's a future shock that will shit you up

Anonymous said...

...What does that even mean?

Tom said...

it means it's so scary that instead of shitting yourself you will crap upwards inside.... i.e shitting you UP. omg why can't snowman be done already

Ryan said...

Just bought this book at a thrift store, and was lucky enough to get a copy with a completely non-spoilery cover. (It was simply a black-and-white pic of a woman with slash marks on it.)

I really enjoyed it; very well-written, and chock full of detail. I hope there's a sequel somewhere down the pike...we ARE approaching 2016, after all...