Cat High: The Yearbook, by Terry Deroy Gruber
One would think that it’s not too hard to make compelling parody material about cats. Cats are naturally pretty entertaining animals to watch and to read about and there are many funny memes relating to cats. This book, unfortunately, takes cat memes and puts them into a senior yearbook that is somewhat awkward (especially considering the photoshopping that is done to add the heads of cats, and one dog, to the photos of high school seniors from decades ago), reminding this reader at least of the worst moments of high school. It would be one thing if this book was consistently funny in a way that was enjoyable, but for the most part this particular book is content to demonstrate a love of insult humor that is sadly not too surprising but also not as enjoyable as it could have otherwise been. When one is looking at a book full of cat memes, one hopes for more than cringeworthy reminders of the worst time of life in a way that encourages the reader to make fun of other people, and this book could have been so much more so easily that it is a real disappointment.
This particular book is organized like a yearbook is, which is what one would expect. The author imagines there being a town in rural Michigan inhabited by cats that has a very eclectic mix of students and teachers and staff in a highly politically and culturally divided setup that involves plenty of students who get in trouble both for pranks as well as for being addicted to catnip and being involved in various crimes. The book features an attractive young nurse who attracts a lot of younger male admirers, has lots of terrible puns in the name, and even features a dog who is in the yearbook as part of an interspecies study program. The book goes political often, featuring some tasteless jokes at the expense of the French as well as a wealthy Arabian princely cat who is also visiting for some reason. Included are photos of all of the staff and students at the school, with some suitably ridiculous courses and clubs and activities shown, and then photos of various clubs that show the cat students dressed in various ways involved in playing tennis or swimming or debating or something else of that nature, with some jokey advertisements at the back.
In reading a book like this, it is easy to wonder what could have made it better. In this particular case, some more ambition might have made this a better book in showing off the quirkiness of cats rather than having them stiffly photoshopped on top of human bodies and photos of graduates. After all, the mismatching head size as opposed to body does tend to make these photos less attractive than they could have been otherwise. And when a book comes along like this one based on pretty basic insult humor and mocking on behalf of some sort of obvious attempt at making fun of people who are not so unlike the various cats, any sort of ambition and excellence helps make the book’s bad writing less disappointing. Unfortunately, this book includes plenty of cats but does it poorly and thinks that cats will be funny no matter how much the author lacks a skilled use of humor, as if the very idea of cats being high school graduates is funny enough to make this an enjoyable book. Given the comedy gold that cats can provide, the fact that the author gets so few laughs out of this is a great disappointment.