Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend by Alan Cumyn

piranha stars green 4

“How could you possibly leave a title like this on the shelf now that you know it exists?”


I don’t really need to explain to you why I bought this book, do I? I mean, you see a book called Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend and your brain goes WHAAAAT? and clearly, obviously, you need to know how that could possibly work:

Is he a real, actual pterodactyl? How? Why?

Why does the title call him ‘boyfriend’? – every teen romance I’ve ever read has some element of will they/won’t they get together…

And hot? The mere fact of stating that in a title seems to shout that it’s either ironic or else this is actually going to be way racier than you’d expect from a YA novel.

Pyke, the pterodactyl, is a transfer student at an American high school. He’s an actual pterodactyl, although he seems to also have some human shape to his body and he’s covered in short fur. I am not totally clear how all that fits together but it didn’t seem to matter in the context of the story. He can fly and he sings in an extraordinary way that has everyone in a kind of trance. Sheils, student-body chair and control freak, tries to guide the rest of the school population in how to treat Pyke, but finds that suddenly, somehow everyone in the school is wild about him. And she also falls under his spell and begins to lose control and act in a way not at all fitting for a student-body chair. As her grip on everything falls away, everyone’s avoiding her. Even her best friend – and former boyfriend – won’t return her calls.

I came to this book with no idea what to expect. If anything, I thought I was going to get a kind of spoof romance, satirising all the tropes of the genre by giving us the most unlikely romantic hero of all. Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend I thought, that’s like that film, Snakes on a Plane – the title tells you exactly what you’re going to get. But it isn’t that at all. Like the vast majority of young adult books, this is a book about finding out who you really are. It’s about casting off assumptions about your future, questioning the plan that’s laid out for you, questioning everything you accept as good and right and proper and then, once you’ve done that, questioning the thing that made you question all that in the first place.

The plot is a little topsy-turvy in places and there are unanswered questions – there’s never an answer to where Pyke came from though why seems clear at the end. But the thrust of the story is what is happening to Sheils and this holds you. I read a film review lately that went like this: ‘Things happened. I cared.’ I like that. Pretty much sums up how I feel about all the books I love and it sums up how I feel about this one.

Things happened. I cared. And – Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend – how could you leave it on the shelf now that you know it exists?

Claire Watts

More to read!

Here’s a great piece Alan Cumyn wrote about how he came up with the idea for this novel: Why I wrote about a hot pterodactyl

Claire Watts writes and edits fiction and non-fiction for children and young adults. Her latest YA novel is How Do You Say GOOSEBERRY in French?

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