Thursday, August 30, 2012

The List

The List by Siobhan Vivian has an interesting concept at its heart which is why I read it. Every year at Mount Washington High School a list is posted. It is posted the week of Homecoming.  Nobody knows who does it. It is stamped with a seal stolen from the school office decades ago to certify it is the only legitimate list of its kind. On the list are eight names, two girls from each class: the ugliest and the prettiest. As decided by a jury of an anonymous person(s).  This is the story of the eight girls chosen in one year.

The Girls and My Thoughts:
Danielle (Ugliest Freshman): I liked Danielle. A lot.  She was unfairly chosen for the List and though it throws her and causes her to make some silly decisions (she is just 14 after all), she comes out stronger in the end.

Abby (Prettiest Freshman):  I had a hard time with Abby. She has problems too, like everyone. She is not allowed to attend Homecoming due to her science grade and feels forever inferior intellectually to her nerdy older sister. She was a whiny brat though and never got past that. But again, she's young.

Candace (Ugliest Sophomore) and Lauren (Prettiest Sophomore): These two are inseparable in terms of story. Candace is actually good looking, but she's mean spirited. Lauren is the new girl (previously homeschooled and her mother is having a hard time letting go) and isn't even trying to be popular or "in". Candace's friends suddenly want to incorporate Lauren into their group after the List. By the end Candace and Lauren are practically BFFs and Candace is learning to be a nicer  person (maybe). I totally could have lived without these two. They sort of bored me.

Sarah (Ugliest Junior): Okay honestly, I want to read a book all about Sarah. She was the one who fascinated me the most and I felt like there was never enough of her. She is an outsider. The "bad girl" (except not really) who could never fit in and so then went to the opposite extreme. Her reaction to the list is, in many ways, funny. Yet there is so much deep hurt under it. She is incredibly sympathetic and heroic in her own confused way. Her story also comes with the one truly awesome male character in the book.

Bridget (Prettiest Junior):  The Listmaker has no idea but they pretty much ruined this girl's life. She was having an issue with body image before, this made it worse. She is far gone by the end of the story and only some serious intervention and counseling are going to bring her back. Bridget's parts are heartbreaking to read in their realism.

Jennifer (Ugliest Senior) and Margo (Prettiest Senior): Again, these girls' stories can not be separated. They were, at one time, best friends. Jennifer is a fourpeter for The List. The only one in history. I liked what the author did with the dynamic between these two. It is not predictable. It is not cliche'. Margo is not a "mean girl". Jennifer is not likable or very sympathetic.

When I began reading I was expecting the format to be different. I just assumed that we would get a story from each girl's PoV, but that's not how the author chose to tell it. Instead, the story is broken up by days of the week beginning when The List is posted and ending with the crowning of the Homecoming Queen. It was a good thing the list was in the front of the book because I needed it to keep track of who everyone was for awhile. Soon though each girl's story became clear and took on a life of its own, some more interesting to read than others. I thoroughly enjoyed the portrayal of the principal, young and new to the school, who went into Super-Educator mode to try and "fix" the girls while not really doing anything but say she was on their side. The girls were not impressed. The rest of the faculty pretty much seems to have the whole situation on ignore, which after years of experience with it is probably a realistic survival tactic.

Overall this is an interesting book which has a lot of good qualities and makes many fine points. I think teenagers who read it will be entertained and have some interesting things to mull over.

Note on Content: Being a book about typical teens in a typical high school, there is swearing, some  underage drinking, and mentions of sex. In the context of the book it works and is not there for shock value nor is the drinking and sex treated frivolously. It is what high school is.

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