All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

The List – Siobhan Vivian

on June 9, 2012

The List
Siobhan Vivian
2012, 332p
Read from my TBR pile

Every year before the Homecoming Dance, The List is posted all over the school. No one knows who composes the list, no one knows how it started or how the tradition continues. But every year, without fail, it does. The List comprises of 8 names – the prettiest girl in each year…and the ugliest.

The List is comprised of a narrative split 8 ways:

Abby is named prettiest freshman and she’s overjoyed. She doesn’t care about passing subjects, doing homework or getting good grades. She cares about her appearance and the fact that people cared enough to name her prettiest! The only thing putting a downer on it is the resentful attitude of her older sister.

Swimmer Danielle has been named ugliest freshman. Although she’s upset about it, what bothers her the most is how her boyfriend, met at summer camp, is going to take the news, with the list nicknaming her ‘Dan the Man’ due to her swimmers shoulders.

Lauren was homeschooled up until last year and everyone is surprised when she is named prettiest sophomore. She’s mostly clueless about what The List is but she is liking the benefits of being named prettiest – for the first time in her life she has friends who aren’t her mother.

Candace’s naming as ugliest sophomore shocked everyone, most notably because she isn’t ugly. At all. But as the list says, beauty isn’t just skin deep.

Bridget is named prettiest junior and knows that her transformation over summer had something to do with it. But is she taking it to far?

Sarah is a rebel who loathes the traditional, generic look that everyone seems to find ‘beautiful’. When she is named ugliest junior she decides to see just how far she can really take the definition of ‘ugly’.

Margo was always the logical choice for beautiful senior. But she’s surprised when the attention isn’t on her.

Jennifer has been named ugliest for the fourth year in a row, unprecedented! And now she’s getting attention, people feeling sorry for her at the harsh treatment she has received at the hands of The List creators.

The List is about eight very different girls and the one thing they have in common – how being singled out changes their lives.

I first read about this book a few months ago and I was immediately interested. It didn’t prove easy to find and so I had my local store order it in from me, which took a couple of weeks. I bumped it to the top of the TBR and ended up getting through it in pretty much the one sitting. The narrative revolves, a chapter at a time for each of the 8 girls listed and although this did sometimes mean it was hard to get to know each girl, I think it was the best way to do things with such a large cast of main characters.

The girls are all very different and I’m pleased that Vivian picked not only a wide variety for the girls proclaimed as ‘ugly’ but also a nice variety for the ‘pretty’ girls. There’s Abby, who is quite shallow, pleased with herself and her selection and the fact that it will bring invites to parties and attention from the older boys, although these will all be useless if her parents figure out that only several months into the school year, she’d flunking at least one course already. Abby has an older, much plainer but brainier sister and there’s a really nice sibling rivalry dynamic between them, looks vs no looks, intelligence vs a struggle to learn. Likewise the differences between the sophomores chosen, Lauren and Candace, were stark. Candace is beautiful, but a typical ‘mean girl’ and it is a shock to all when she is chosen as ugly. In contrast Lauren, although pretty, wears clothes years out of date, her hair needs a cut and she has no friends – until of course, The List puts her on top of her year. Likewise the juniors, Bridget and Sarah are incredibly different – Bridget is struggling with the pressure of getting (and keeping) the look that has seen her picked and Sarah is angry about everything, but particularly about The List. She’s determined to really show them just what ugly is. The seniors, Margo and Jennifer, used to be friends before high school but Margo distanced herself from Jennifer. Now their inclusion on The List will force them both to confront the reasons their friendship ended years ago.

Reading this book was like being transported straight back to high school – and that’s not a bad thing, even though I’m relieved to have that part of my life well over! I just mean that I feel that Vivian really nailed the dynamics of high school students but without disintegrating into stereotype vs stereotype or the overly dramatic. I enjoyed the wide cast of characters and the fact that each one had their insecurities and difficulties, even (perhaps in some cases, especially) the ones that had been labelled as ‘pretty’. And that the ones labeled as ‘ugly’ learned throughout the course of the novel that while this may have seemed like the end of the world, it isn’t. It’s just a word, it’s just one person’s word for you and it isn’t everyone’s. Labels fade, be they good or bad and other things will move to front and centre and take their place. High school is just one part of your life – and each year in it a smaller part yet again. I think this book does a good job at reminding people of that. Things that seem important there, like being labeled ‘pretty’ or ‘ugly’ will fail to even register on a scale of what is important and  what is not in the years to come. But at the time it is dire and the book doesn’t make light about the fact that although these memories will fade, high school can be a very difficult time for many people.

Overall I liked The List a lot although I have to admit to being a fraction let down by the ending. It just seemed a little abrupt to me, like there was something missing. It wasn’t anything big enough to change my opinion of the book or what score I gave it, just a little feeling when I closed the book that there were a couple of things left that I’d have liked to know. But then again, I’m nosy like that! I like closure on everything.


Book #101 of 2012

3 responses to “The List – Siobhan Vivian

  1. Willa says:

    Thanks for drawing my attention to this book, it sounds cool! I will have to give it a try.

  2. Belle says:

    What an interesting concept for a book! I like the idea of the different perspectives too. I always want full closure at the end of a story as well – but I might have to hunt ths one down anyway!

  3. Bethany says:

    How many Chapter?

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