A sexy and charismatic pterodactyl comes to high school and completely disrupts the political ambitions – and well-ordered love life – of Student Body Chair Shiels Krane. Pyke is destabilizing, a Muse, a bad-boy boyfriend you can’t stop thinking about. He’s our unconscious, the beast in us, a metaphor of course but rather real, too. He infects our dreams, sets blood to percolate, his crest flames red when he’s interested. He smells fishy. It’s impossible not to watch him when he achieves flight, or when he explodes open his wings and is copied by followers carrying black umbrellas.
“Eighteen? He didn’t look a day less than sixty-five million.”
This is a terribly strange experiment gone terribly right. Shannon Ozirni, The Globe and Mail
Part romance, part paranormal romp, part classic contemporary, this hybrid novel’s strengths lie in its strong relatable characters and unique concept. Already an author with a wide range—from middle grade to YA to literary adult fare—Cumyn shows off his wingspan with this engaging, offbeat novel. — Jennifer Barnes, Booklist
Utterly witty, this book brilliantly satirizes the high-school experience. — Girls’ Life
Paul Coomey, Head Designer at Simon & Schuster UK, takes us through ten steps to fashioning the UK cover for Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend.
Alan Cumyn on the writing of Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend.
It started as a speck in the east, a hint of black that might easily have been a crow. The sky was full of crows in late September, crows by the thousands with their squawking, nervy calls, the way they would mass on a stand of leaf-losing trees, a fractured black cloud of them. It might’ve been a lone crow, and maybe that was why Shiels turned her head and looked up.
She was stepping out of Mr. Postlethwaite’s portable classroom, his forgettable English class, already checking her text messages. Autumn Whirl was less than ten days away, and the band was not yet chosen. Rebecca Sterzl was never going to get a handle on that committee. Shiels would have to step in herself, but how to do it deftly, without setting off a bomb? She needed Rebecca to function still for lesser duties. And then . . . a speck. Maybe a crow? No reason to even look. But she did.
Was it before, or just after, that a worm in her gut bit her? It was such an odd feeling, an organ pain, almost—from something inside, sleeping somewhere, her plumbing perhaps, about which she had been completely unaware. It had never bitten her before. There was no reason to pay attention.
The speck got larger. Even from a great distance it seemed possible to tell that the wings were not usual. They arched and seemed, somehow, blacker than crows’ wings, and became larger even though the speck was not heading directly her way but moving in a zigzag. Then the wings weren’t actually black but a sort of metallic purple. Royal, maybe, or what a truly harsh band might wear at a three a.m. blast with spook lights and a lot of stage smoke.
That’s one face-rake of a bird, she thought—“face-rake” being the term that Sheldon had invented, having stepped on a rake a few weeks before.
Zig, zag. North-south, north-south. How to explain this weirdness to Sheldon? For three years they had shared news of everything fractured. Like the parakeet impersonating a baby on the bus, the video of which he had texted her, with commentary. And Principal Manniberg’s hair loss pills, which he had left out on his desk for Shiels to see, as plain as day, and which she had told Sheldon about later when they’d been hacking into the student newspaper blog because they’d lost the admin password and they were the only ones who knew it.
Or used to know it.
They shared everything.
Now Sheldon wasn’t here, he was tutoring math lab in the south basement, so she had to be aware of every oddity for him, especially how the whole crowd of students simply seemed to know at the same time to cock their heads and gaze out over the sports field, the track. But the football players didn’t look. They were all smashing into the tackle dummies and whatever else football players smashed into. The cross-country runners were on the track. They didn’t look either, but kept running in little clumps of legginess. Shiels was only vaguely aware of them in the first few moments.
More than twenty kids were standing with their books and backpacks, and their skimpy blouses and short skirts, with bare legs or thin pants—everyone shivering. Probably five were standing exactly like Shiels, with phones out, supposedly checking the world. But the world was forgotten.
One freaking huge royal purple non-crow was cutting a path through the gray sky to their little patch of green.
“Holy crackers,” someone said.
Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend by Alan Cumyn
Crows play an unusual background role in the novel, as Pyke’s chorus, following him around, blackening the sky in odd times, spying on Shiels, even cleaning the occasional gymnasium. Alta Vista, the Ottawa neighbourhood where Alan Cumyn lives, is famous for its crows: