Book Review: The List

July 15, 2012

The list is refreshing in that sense. It can reduce an entire female population down to three clear-cut groups.



And everyone else.

listAs the quote above says, eight girls are on the list at the center of Siobhan Vivian‘s aptly titled The List. Two girls are chosen from each class year, one as the prettiest and one as the ugliest. The novel follows the eight girls from the day the list is posted until the Homecoming dance, which ends the week.

What I Liked

– In any story told from multiple viewpoints, I’m sure to glom onto some characters and their perceptions of events or stories more than others. This novel is no different. My favorite characters to follow were Danielle, Lauren, Bridget, and Jennifer. So one girl per class. And, no, not all of them were the ugliest, even though my sympathy automatically sort of lies with the not pretty girl or the girl labeled not pretty. I clarify because in the book, as in life, those two ideas (being labeled ugly and being ugly) are not interchangeable.

– I wasn’t that interested in Abby, but I did like the interesting ways Abby’s relationship with her sister paralleled/contrasted with Bridget and her sister.

– Lauren’s mom. I mean, WHAT was going on there?

– The best part about Danielle’s story is that it shows just how crushing peer pressure can be and how different people handle it. Like, okay, you’re named the ugliest freshman. How does your boyfriend deal with it? And what does that mean for you? Loved that angle on the whole ordeal.

– One of my favorite, favorite things is that the ugly girls aren’t automatically to be pitied. I’m avoiding spoilers here, but the highlight for me is that one of the ugly girls is completely nuts. She’s desperate, needy, and clingy, so, by the end, I can see why she’s universally kind of shunned, even as she doesn’t deserve to get on the list.

– No one deserves to be on the list, btw. It’s completely subjective, and, as the narrative reveals, petty division based on arbitrary details/criteria.

– I do like that Vivian reveals how this particular list is made and the criteria for each group. Something to think about.

– I kind of love the principal and her role. I liked the way some of the adults responded to her (she’s pretty!). I would have liked to see just a bit more revealed about her past as she tried to relate to the girls. I’m not sure how that would happen (or even if it would’ve been realistic), but it would’ve added a nice element to the story.

– The end. The idea that the things are just as they should be is both refreshing and terrifying.

What I Didn’t Like

– The girls are all kind of interchangeable. In some instances I forgot who I was reading about. In fact, if the sections hadn’t been completely delineated with the girl’s name in the first paragraph/line, I wouldn’t have known whose story it was.

– Sarah is so gross that it was hard for me to take her seriously.

– Some of the conclusions are a little too easy/typical. Yes, it’s hard being pretty. Oh, the pretty girl’s mom is just as obsessed with popularity as she is? The ideal of perfection is hard to achieve? Okay, I know that.

This complaint really goes with the interchangeable bit, I guess, but more shading and more atypical complications for each story would have been nice.  There is a generic quality to quite a bit of the girls’ stories.

– Vivian shines at writing interpersonal conflict and exploring relationships through dialogue. Seeing the girls in relationship with each other and with others instead of spending a lot of time in their heads would have added a lot to the story as well.

In conclusion: All in all, a pretty breezy read that raises some interesting questions about beauty standards and perceptions.

Source: I bought this!

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