Thursday, January 16, 2014

The List (Book Review)

Thursday, January 16, 2014 10:21 AM with 14 comments

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The List

Author: Siobhan Vivian
Publisher: Push
Release Date: April 1, 2012
Number of Pages: 332

Synopsis from Goodreads:

 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.




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MY THOUGHTS:

I first read this book last spring with my teen reading group at the library. I thoroughly enjoyed it and found myself thinking about it recently, so I decided to give it a second look. I love this book. It follows eight girls, two in each grade at a high school, that have been put on "The List". The list is distributed every fall the week before Homecoming and is made up of eight girls--again two from each grade--that have been named either the prettiest or the ugliest girl in their grade. Nobody knows who makes the list every year, but the list is stamped with the official school seal to give gravitas. It's ambitious to follow eight different characters in a relatively slim book, but Siobhan Vivian definitely pulls it off. For the first few chapters I was flipping back to the front of the book to see which girl I was reading about (freshman ugliest, junior prettiest, etc), but after awhile, the girls became distinct. 

What makes a book like this important is the way it shows that ALL girls are judged. ALL girls have problems. The girls who are 'pretty' are dealing with just as much crap as their counterparts. The book touches on serious issues like anorexia, self-worth, sister relationships, jealousy, and guilt--just to name a few. The author does a great job of touching on important issues while keeping the book interesting and enjoyable. She also keeps the girls real without relying on stereotypes or stock characters.  

The freshman girls are Danielle and Abby. Until the list comes out Danielle was happy. She's on the JV swim team, but on the fast track to make varsity and she is with her boyfriend, Andrew, who she met at summer camp that summer where they were both counselors. After being named ugliest freshman and saddled with the name "Dan the Man" Danielle is struggling to show everybody that the list doesn't bother her while worrying that the teasing Andrew is taking about their relationship will make him change his mind about her. 
Abby is thrilled to be named prettiest freshman. She often feels like she is living under her older sister's shadow because Fern is such a good student. She hates that the list seems to be making the divide between her and her sister even wider, though. 

The sophomore girls are Candace and Lauren. Candace, a drop dead gorgeous girl, has been named ugliest sophomore with the explanation that beauty isn't only skin deep. She is the queen bee of her popular group of sophomore girls, but she can see the glee in her friends' eyes that she has been called out. She quickly finds her grasp on her group slipping. Lauren is new to public school. She has always been home schooled, but after moving to a new town with her mother--who had to move into her childhood home and get a job--Lauren is experiencing a real school for the first time. After being named prettiest sophomore she finds herself with friends for the first time. The same group of girls that used to hang out with Candace. 

The junior girls are Sarah and Bridget. Sarah has always been a bit of a loner. She sits on the same isolated bench everyday, smoking cigarettes and thinking her classmates are morons. She has just started to see a new boy, Milo, and she is annoyed that the list has singled her out. Determined not to just slink into the shadows, she decides writes ugliest across her forehead and decides to drop all personal hygiene up to the Homecoming dance. She wears the same clothes every day--and builds up as much of a sweat as possible--she refuses to shower or brush her teeth. She will not be ignored. Bridget has been suffering from anorexia since the beginning of the summer and even though she knows she needs help, she can not help but feel justified when she is named the prettiest junior. She tells herself that she just needs to get herself through Homecoming...and then she will let herself eat again.

The senior girls are Jennifer and Margo. Jennifer has been named the ugliest girl in her class for four years in a row. When she was named ugliest freshman, Jennifer had a embarrassing breakdown in front of the entire school. This year she is determined to embrace her title. Margo is the no-brainer. She is primed to be named Homecoming Queen and is looking forward to getting through senior year and on to the next stage of her life. She used to be best friends with Jennifer and is a bit ashamed by how their friendship dissolved. She is horrified when her two best friends decide to take Jennifer under their wing and start campaigning for her to be named Homecoming Queen. Jennifer is, of course, thrilled by the attention of two of the most popular girls in school and begins to feel hope that she will be named queen at the dance. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. Even though following eight different girls is quite a lot, it was never overwhelming and each girl really is unique and districtive. I've read a few complaints about the lack of any true resolution, but I actually liked that. This was a week in the life of eight high school girls, to resolve all of the problems or to show real resolution to some of the issues would have rang so false in this book. If she would have wrapped up all of the storylines with little bows, I wouldn't have enjoyed this book nearly as much as I did. What makes this book so good is that it stays true to what a week in high school is really like. It's a slice of life. Don't get me wrong, there is some resolution. We find out who made the list, for example, and who gets crowned queen, but major problems like eating disorders don't magically go away. 

Even though this story deals with some heavy issues, it is itself relatively light and incredibly easy to read. I cared about all of the girls on the list and think that this is an important book that actual teens would relate to and enjoy. Definitely recommend.  

14 comments:

  1. I like the idea of reading a book with 8 POVs that sounds like fun. Have you ever read The Realm of Possibility? Each chapter is a different POV, and it never repeats a character. Through each chapter/character you get another piece of the story. It's great.

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    1. I haven't heard of that, but it sounds intriguing! I love multiple POV. Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. Oh wow, 8 POVs?! I'm not sure I could keep up with that. I kind of get confused sometimes when there's more then one! But it does sound like a really fun read. I read The Hate List, which sounds NOTHING like this according to the blurb, but it reminded me of it because of the title...

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    1. It follows eight different girls, but it is in 3rd person, so it isn't too bad. I know about The Hate List, but haven't read it. I know that they are definitely way different, though! This one is fun; you should give it a try. Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. I'm not sure I could follow 8 POV's! LOL Definitely interested in giving it a try though. Glad you enjoyed it! :)

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    1. I had miswrote (and changed it) it's not 8 POVs, so it's not nearly as confusing as it sounds. You should give it a try. I really enjoyed it. Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. I saw this book last time I was at the book store. 8 POVs is a lot. This does sound interesting though. Great review and I'm glad you liked it!

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    1. Thanks, Stephanie! I meant it follows 8 characters, not that it has 8 POVs. It's 3rd person, so it really isn't as confusing as it sounds. I hope you enjoy it if you decide to pick it up. Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. I think I'd have a problem at the beginning with 8 different characters. That's a lot! But it sounds like it became better, which is great. I love that it shows the truth behind being a girl: we are all judged, no matter what, and it sucks. I completely agree with you about having a perfect ending, with this only taking place in a week, that would be so far from the truth. Nothing gets better in a week. Will have to think about reading this one. Great review! So glad you're back to blogging more :)

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    1. After the first few chapters it isn't too bad. The book has a handy guide in the beginning of the book for readers to turn to. That certainly helped. I've read a few reviews that complained about the lack of resolution, but I liked how it ended. It's a fast and easy read. I definitely recommend giving it a try.

      Thanks, girlie! Getting back into the swing of things has been a bit rough. Writing reviews can be hard! But I love this blog and my blogger friends, so I'm thrilled to be back in the swing of things.

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  6. Eight different characters does sound like a lot, but I do like the idea of all the girls being portrayed as real and not just stereotypes. And I always like a good slice of life story as well. Great review! ~Pam

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    1. It is a lot, but it's not as confusing as it sounds. The girls really are unique and I loved that the author didn't rely on stereotypes which would have been so easy to do in a relatively slim book. Thanks for stopping by!

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  7. I actually love the sound of this one, even following eight characters. I like that the girls become distinct and individual. I think I'll definitely be giving this a try if I can track it down. Great review :)

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    1. I really liked it. You can always ask for your library to buy a copy if it doesn't have one already. :) I do that all the time. Once you get through the first few chapters it really does become easy to follow even with that many characters. I hope you love it if you do give it a try!

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