Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend

Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend

Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend was written by Alan Cumyn and first published in 2016. It is a strange, surreal story that focuses on the chaos that breaks out at a high school when its first ever interspecies transfer student enrolls. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of Cumyn’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Shiels Krane has everything under control. As student body chair, she’s super-efficient and so everything runs like clockwork so long as everyone follows her instructions to the letter. She has a good life, a supportive boyfriend and hopes to one day soon head off to college to learn political anthropology from her hero, Lorraine Meins. Everything is coming up roses for her until the day that Pyke crash lands outside her school.

Pyke is a pterodactyl, the first of his kind of ever attend high school, and Shiels anticipates that his arrival will cause no end of problems. There’s no way that the other students and their parents would ever accept a prehistoric monster. However, she could not have been more wrong. Pyke seems to possess a strange animal attraction that drives all of the girls wild and Shiels is horrified to discover that even she is not immune to his charms.

After she is filmed in a compromising position with Pyke at the school dance, she’s horrified to discover that her grasp on life is slipping. She’s suddenly one of the least popular people at school and her nose has turned bright purple, putting a strain on her relationship. With everything she believed she wanted now in question it’s up to Shiels to decide who she really wants to be, even if that person is a pterodactyl’s girlfriend.

Okay, yes, I admit it. I only decided to review this book based on its title. I mean, how could I miss the opportunity to post about sexy pterodactyls? Unfortunately, it became really quickly apparent that the title of this novel is rather misleading. This story isn’t what you would expected based on my synopsis and I think that’s probably going to leave a lot of readers disappointed.

Firstly, I should probably note that this novel takes its subject matter surprisingly seriously. It’s not a joke and isn’t intended to be played for laughs. However, to even get past the first chapter of Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend, you really do need to be able to suspend your disbelief. It’s a story in which a pterodactyl (note: an actual pterodactyl, not a boy with wings) attends high school and everyone is strangely chill about the idea. If you don’t think you can cope with this base concept, it’s probably a good idea to give this one a miss.

The biggest problem that I had with Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend was that it doesn’t really know what it wants to be. My assumption based on the blurb was that it would be a parody of a paranormal romance novel, making light of the typical formula of high school girl loves mythological creature that we’ve all read a thousand times before. While there were occasionally elements of this seen in Shiels’s thought process (her constant attraction to Pyke’s fishy scent and the heaving pecs beneath his fur), it definitely isn’t the story’s main purpose.

One of the things important to paranormal romances is the voice of the mythological aspect as it allows the reader to project a degree of humanity onto the love interest. In Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend, Pyke is never given a voice of his own. He barely speaks any English and the novel always skimps on the details when it comes to his past life and motivation for coming to the school. Although the plot revolves around Pyke’s existence he’s strangely absent from the proceedings, sometimes not even appearing for chapters at a time. Even when he’s there he seems a bit distant. Despite being obviously intelligent enough to be in high school, he seems fairly oblivious to everything that’s happening around him.

At times, it seemed that the story was instead trying to be satirical but Cumyn never seemed to push that boat out far enough either. At certain points, the story seemed to simply be using Pyke to express our inherent tendency to shun outsiders in society. At one point, Shiels uses this argument to address her mother’s distrust of Pyke, whom she’s never met:

“If he were a student of color, you would be all in favour of integrating him,” Shiels said. “If he came from a different country, or had an unusual sexual orientation-”

“Do not call me a racist, or sexist, or-”

“It’s speciesism,” Shiels said simply.

While the teen characters in the novel are all incredibly accommodating to Pyke, the adults are all just a quick to assume that he’s a monster and only really accept him when he proves that he has talents in other fields. When he is a pterodactyl that simply wants to learn, he’s no good. When he proves he’s a musician and good at catching a football, suddenly they can freely accept him. Yet, again, the racism angle also doesn’t affect the story all that much either. It rears its head occasionally when Shiels needs to make a point but the fact that Pyke genuinely is a proven danger to the people around him causes this message to largely fail.

I suppose that, more than anything, the novel is really the story of Shiels. She begins the novel as an utterly insufferable control freak. She largely seems to run the school, eternally trying to control the movements of the students and even issuing demands on the headmaster. Both of these ultimately lead to her downfall as when things start to turn sour, she is both the person who is blamed and the one who people expect to make things right again.

Shiels is ultimately the main focus on the novel as the pterodactyl’s true significance is to cause her to realise that she needs to release her need to control everything and relax while she still can. It’s impossible to be in control of everything at all times as the unexpected will always happen. Only by relaxing, by being adaptable, can a person remain strong. Unfortunately, we don’t ultimately know if Shiels will be successful. While it does seem that she’s on her way to being able to let go, the novel’s weak climax leaves her in a position where her fate is unclear.

Beyond Shiels, there aren’t any really characters of note. While Sheldon (Shiels’s boyfriend) is important in the first third of the novel, he gradually appears less and less as the story progresses. As Sheldon was seemingly Shiels’s only friend, after this the novel is really just about her. In fact, most of the other people (particularly the girls) within the novel are portrayed really badly. I’m not sure if I like the way that every female character immediately succumbs to Pyke’s “charms”, degenerating into lustful beasts whenever he is nearby. I really don’t know what point Cumyn was trying to make with this. Is it that we’re all just animals, burning for an excuse to give in to our wild sides? If that’s the case, why does it affect the female characters far more than the male? It seems decidedly dodgy to me…

Really, Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend’s issues for me were two-fold. Firstly, I think I would have enjoyed it far more if it had greater focus. While it is a curious idea for a story, its primary issue was that it was just far too ambitious. It tries to be too many things, striving to seem deep when it has little substance, and in doing so fails to make a mark. I think I would have enjoyed it much more if it had picked one style, theme and tone and stuck with them.

Its second issue is that the novel is really twice as long as it needed to be. At 405 pages, it’s pretty long for a stand-alone young adult novel. While I don’t shy away from longer reads, a book really does need to have a reason to justify such a large page count. Cumyn really dragged his story out more than it needed to be, leading to a lot of meaningless sub-plots and a whole bunch of filler.

In conclusion, I have at least learned a valuable lesson. I must not decide to review novels just because they have entertaining titles.

Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook and Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

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  1. Trackback: Spontaneous | Arkham Reviews

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