Review: The Yearbook

The YearbookThe Yearbook by Carol Masciola

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A story about a 16-year-old who accidentally travels back in time to the 1920s, falls in love, and then gets shipped back to the present and told she’s crazy? Sign me up, right?

Let me say this right off: this book gets 3 stars because the concept, the premise of the story itself, was fantastic. There’s something about the past that grips me; any time I read about certain eras of history, I wonder what it would’ve been like to live in that time. For Lola Lundy, who has never felt a sense of belonging and home, going back to a different era where no one knows her seems like a great idea.

Lola is troubled, there’s no doubt about it: in the beginning of the story, she’s already on the run from a vague authority; she’s failing all her classes and has recently been transplanted to a new school; she’s living in a group home with a desperately annoying roommate; oh, and everyone’s just waiting around for her to turn out to be schizophrenic, like her late mother. I couldn’t help but feel for Lola. A lot of teenagers feel like they don’t belong, but Lola has more reason than most. She certainly has plenty of motivation to long for a totally different life—one where no one knows her as a teenage delinquent daughter of a crazy woman. For a while there, it seems like she will get her wish.

(view spoiler)

I’m conflicted when it comes to the treatment of mental illness in The Yearbook. On the one hand, from what little I know of schizophrenia, Masciola’s portrayal seems realistic. Lola’s family history of mental illness keeps you guessing throughout the story. You’re left wondering about the nature of mental illness and about the way we categorize individuals, the way those labels change the way we perceive people who’ve been labeled as crazy. Part of me absolutely loves that Masciola took on the stigma of mental illness as kind of a backdrop to a fantastical story about time travel.

On the other hand, though, I’m left with too many questions for my taste. If Lola is really suffering schizophrenic delusions, then what happens to her when she allegedly disappears through a loophole, and why don’t we get more than a third-party glimpse of her future in the past? If Lola isn’t schizophrenic, I wanted confirmation of this; I wanted, in a weird way, to be schooled about my own prejudice and stigmatization of her character. Oddly enough, I wanted a moral from this story. (hide spoiler)]

I wanted to like this book so much. I really did. I could see how great the story could be, and yet there were so many problematic points that it became grating at times. As enjoyable as the story was, I have to wonder about the message about mental illness—or rather, the ideas about mental illness that are left open to interpretation.

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