Books, YA Fiction

The List, by Siobhan Vivian


*4 Stars*

An 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.

I’m sorry for not posting lately, whoever is reading this. I’ve been extremely busy (school, yikes) so it’s been hard to update and even read. It feels like I’ve been looking for too much brain candy lately, because I don’t want to focus on the substance but I’ll get to it! I’m thinking of checking out The Young Elites later, so that’ll be coming soon. But, let’s focus on The List for now. The List has been on my to-read for what feels like a century, and I’ve surprisingly never planned on taking it seriously, even when I was in the beginning stages of the book. But, this book had so much more depth than I thought, and that particular factor lead me to this 4-star rating.

Every year, about a week before the Homecoming Game/Dance,  A list is posted. Throughout the hallways, in the classrooms, in the bathrooms, a list lays out the “prettiest” and “ugliest” girls from freshman to seniors. This is an alleged tradition, and nobody every knows who wrote it. The basic premise Vivian has chosen for this book is seemingly difficult to understand and to keep up with at points, but she actually pulls it off well throughout. The writing is light and chilling simultaneously, there’s a good balance and blending of lighthearted and harsh/truthful moments. While The List seems to be regarded as a regular chick-lit novel, it’s actually more than that. Beauty standards in society and one’s struggle with loving themselves is the main theme in this book, and while that can be incredibly overdone with cliches, Vivian focuses more the characters and their frustration more than the concept itself.

Our characters, Danielle, Abby, Candace, Lauren, Sarah, Bridget, Jennifer, and Margo each have their own set of problems from eating disorders to tarnished relationships, and their strong characterization brings them to life in this story. I remember not approving of the 8-POV concept in the beginning – at all. It was extremely irritating having to flip back and forth to the list to remember which girl’s story I am following (but I suppose that could be laced back to poor characterization :\), but I’ve always loved multiple POVs, and fortunately the girls’ characterization improved as the story went on. I will say that some girls could have been easily removed from the book, as their story wasn’t as defined. For example, Lauren and Candace’s stories weren’t as focused on and it felt like they even had less “page time” than the other characters, whose stories were more clear and not as vague. The girls with more definite and specific problems definitely stuck and largely impact of the story and message of the book, this list consisting of Bridgette, Jennifer, Margo, and possibly Abby and Sarah. I would say these characters are the most relatable and dynamic of the bunch, and while I disliked some of their POVs, I enjoyed their realistic character traits and behavior.

Surprisingly, the plot of The List invites a tinge of mystery, concerning the question “who made the list”? While the question isn’t as urgent throughout the book as it is toward the end, there’s still a feeling of uneasiness along the way, and that plot twist though… damn. I won’t say anything, you’ll just have to find out the details for yourself!

Overall, The List seems to reprimanded negatively in the YA world, but you’ll just have to see how it fits you and your particular style. It won’t be for everyone, but I suggest giving it a try if you’re in the mood for something different.