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.
So why did this make my heart hurt? These poor girls on this list, that's why. The moment this list goes public their lives change. One girl now believes she is on top of the world and it throws another girl back into her tailspin of fighting an eating disorder. Another girl believes that even if it is short-lived, she finally has friends. There is an inner struggle with all the girls as they try to figure out their place in the complex world of high school. Friendships and relationships are tested all over the place and some things the girls thought were real turn out to be just a result of the list and go away as quickly as they came.
I couldn't stop reading this book last night because I was so worried for these girls I had to know what happened to them. This book is a highly emotional book about how being labeled can affect a person. High School is a tricky place to navigate through anyway, and while something like The List may be the extreme, people being labeled happens all over the place. The List makes you realize that no matter what you are labeled: "pretty" or "ugly" or "smart" or "athletic" there are feelings, and consequences that everyone deals with on a daily basis. If you don't read this book and think about your own high school and your own high school experiences, I'll be surprised.
I hated 90% of the characters in The List. They were all so messed up and obnoxious and self-centered and bratty and downright cruel - and yet, unfortunately realistic. So I guess it's good that I couldn't stand them. Although I think someone should push Andrew off of a cliff.
The List took place during Homecoming week in high school, told from the perspective of eight different girls. Surprisingly this didn't confuse me. I thought the point of view change flowed nicely and allowed the reader to get the perspective from each girl and their various lives. And every girl in The List all did have surprisingly complicated lives. I thought maybe one or two of the girls would fall flat but Siobhan Vivian managed to give them all a life of their own.
I still hate them though.
The List by Siobhan Vivian is one of those books that's hard to take. The fact that teenagers can be so cruel to each other and to themselves is a bitter pill to swallow, but Siobhan Vivian doesn't shy away from it.
Some of the girls in The List, however, didn't really get a wrapped-up ending. Sure, I know everything doesn't end with a pretty bow - especially not in a brutally honest book like The List, but I kind of felt like some of the girl's stories were unfinished.
In the end, The List by Siobhan Vivian is a contemporary worth your time. It's painful to get through, and I can guarantee you'll want to throw something at each and every character at some point, but The List bitterly realistic and honest about what it means to be a high school girl.
Plot: When I read the blurb I was really excited; it was a plot I'd never heard of before and it told eight different stories. But, this is where the problem was. At 331 pages, it sounds like plenty of room for eight different stories, right? Wrong.
There just wasn't enough for eight different stories. They were good story lines, they just weren't done well and to the extent to make this book amazing.
Characters: Honestly, I didn't read this book all that long ago and I couldn't remember any of the characters' names. I knew the basic outline of each story, but I had to flip though the book again just to jog my memory for this review.
Freshman- Danielle and Abby. I felt a little sympathy for Danielle, who had to deal with her boyfriends getting teased because of her. But, I couldn't feel any connection at all with Abby, who's narration just picked apart her sister. I don't expect to be able to connect to all eight main characters, but I'd like to at least feel sorry for her.
Sophomores- Candace and Lauren. I really liked these two because Candace was listed as ugliest because of her personality, not her looks. When Lauren starts taking over her group she has to reevaluate how she treats her friends. Lauren was one of my favorites. Her story was simple enough to fit in with several others and not take up enough room, but long enough that you get to know her and root for her.
Juniors- Sarah and Bridget. Sarah spends the book "rebelling" and embracing her part on the list as "ugliest". She doesn't shower, or brush her teeth and wears the same clothes all week. I was a little confused by her story, but I loved Milo. Bridget is, in the words of Pretty Little Liars, using ugly tricks to stay pretty. Her little sister is Abby's best friend, so it makes for a neat relationship there.
Seniors- Jennifer and Margo. The story between these two alone could have been a book, but instead we got a rushed version in between other girls' stories. They used to be best friends, but now that Jennifer's been listed as "ugliest" for four years in a row, Margo's friends want to invite her into their group to make up for it.
Their relationship builds up to surprising ending, but it could have been so much better if we got more of their story and characters. The thing with the ending though is that it's not hinted throughout the book. It's just like, you know what? This is how it should end.
They all could have been great characters given more page time.
Writing Style: It switched between so many different point of views that it would take me a few pages into reading a chapter to remember the story line, or I'd have to flip back to the girl's previous chapter because I'd forgotten what they were in the middle of.
Overall: This book had the potential to be amazing. It was there. It was just too rushed and choppy. It's an original plot that just wasn't executed very well. Don't get me wrong, Vivian is an amazing writer, this book just fell short.
The gist of the book really makes you think about high school and how we classify people. This is just a person or two writing a list that says that you're "pretty" or you're "ugly" and that changes the girls' relationships with different people drastically. It's very true to life and eye opening.
Despite all that, I just didn't find it a very good book.