Review: The List

The List by Siobhan Vivian

Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Describe it in three words: Surprising – Open-ended – Potential
First impression:
May be a bit childish for me, but the synopsis sounds interesting enough to try out
Last impression:
 Well, that was abrupt

the listAn intense look at the rules of high school attraction — and the price that’s paid for them.
It happens every year. A list is posted, and one girl from each grade is chosen as the prettiest, and another is chosen as the ugliest. Nobody knows who makes the list. It almost doesn’t matter. The damage is done the minute it goes up.
This is the story of eight girls, freshman to senior, “pretty” and “ugly.” And it’s also the story of how we see ourselves, and how other people see us, and the tangled connection of the two.

Review: At first glance, this book seemed like it may be a little too “young” adult for me. I don’t discriminate though; any book with an interesting enough plotline is worthy of my attention. The basic plot summary is as follows: at some random high school, each year some unknown person makes The List. It includes the ugliest girl and prettiest girl of each grade level. So in total, eight girls’ lives are changed because high school is a place where only appearances matter. Sounds like a great premise. They each struggled with different (pretty serious, at times) issues. Let me tell you a little about each girl and their story, because it was kind of hard to keep up with the changing perspectives. Yes, of course this was one of those books where the author rotates through each girl’s story in different chapters…for eight characters that can be a bit challenging. The story follows these girls over the course of a week.

  • Danielle is named ugliest freshman because apparently her swimmer’s body is a bit too big for some people. She has a boyfriend that she met at camp over the summer, and she wonders how he’ll react. Their story was comparatively boring, but I ended up liking her a lot in the end.
  • Abby is named prettiest freshman and is a little bitch to her older sister about it. She sucks at school and her sister is smart and they’re just SoOoO different. She was pretty annoying but whatever, freshman usually are idiots.
  • Candace is named ugliest sophomore even though she’s conventionally pretty. The person who made the list is judging her on the fact that she’s a royal bitch. Her friends back away from her and move on to…
  • Lauren, the new girl, is named prettiest sophomore. Her relationship with her mom is kind of bizarre and she essentially doesn’t know how to interact with people her own age due to the homeschooling. I was pretty jealous of her long flowing hair though.
  • Sarah is the ugliest junior because she tries to be all punk rock and “I don’t care what they think about me.”  She was my least favorite because she was so stubborn and obnoxious.
  • Bridget is the prettiest junior because she lost a lot of weight over the summer. You can assume the reasons why, so her story got pretty depressing.
  • Jennifer wins ugliest senior.. This is her fourth year on the list and she seems to be owning it. Her story surprised me the most in the end. She used to be best friends with the prettiest senior.
  • Margo is the prettiest senior and obviously a shoo-in for homecoming queen. I feel like she was the main character in a lot of ways, even though about the same amount of time was spent on her as the rest of the girls. She seems to have a decent head on her shoulders (comparatively) unlike every other idiot that made it on the list.

The list is released on Monday and the homecoming dance is on Saturday. In some ways the timeline was too short but in other ways I think it hit the spot. You gained enough perspective about each of the I girls and learned why they reacted the way they did. The book was definitely fast-paced; I would be eager to read the next chapter and see who was going to be featured next. The book was only 332 pages and it probably should have been longer. Overall, the book touched on some heavy topics and the extreme scenario of how difficult high school can be. I appreciate the author’s intention; she had SO much potential with this plot. In the end, it didn’t really come through as strong as it could. It was left extremely open-ended. Does Lauren keep her friends after the pre-dance disaster? Does Bridget overcome her body image issues? I don’t mind SOME cases where the author lets you develop your own theories about how the story ends, but I think this left a little too much open. When you decide to take on a topic like this, you would hope it would give you some type of moral to the story. I’m pretty sure it was even on a summer reading list for a high school near where I live. (I’m excited schools are starting to introduce contemporary YA into their programs instead of the classics-only summer reading we used to have)  The “climax” of the book involved a show-down between Margo and Jennifer, which you see coming the entire novel because they used to be friends but stopped because Margo got too pretty or something. You do end up finding out who wrote the list, and that was a major area of surprise for me. Overall, I can’t deny that I enjoyed reading this book as it was happening. It was a quick read with a lot going on; it kept me interested. With a book like this, I expected this huge ending that shocked you and put all of the pieces together in some way – instead it left too many unanswered questions for my liking.

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