Monday, July 9, 2012

Review: The List

The List, by Siobhan Vivian. The GoodReads summary:
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.
So I really liked the overall idea of the book: an exploration of how being on the pretty/ugly list affected all eight girls and by extension their families and friends. I also liked a few of the girls—Danielle, the “ugly” freshman was pretty awesome, I thought, and was strong enough to be a main character in her own book. I also ended up really liking Candace (the “ugly” sophomore), which was surprising considering she’s basically a “mean girl” at the beginning. I also liked Lauren, the “pretty” sophomore—I thought she seemed really nice—but I couldn’t stand her parts of the book because her mom drove me up the wall because she’s so overbearing and overprotective.

Unfortunately, those are pretty much the only girls I liked out of the eight. Jennifer, the “ugly” senior, I really disliked. I couldn’t tell whether I, as the reader, was supposed to sympathize with her or not, but I thought she came off as really obsequious and self-pitying. I also really didn’t like Bridget’s (the “pretty” junior) story. Bridget herself was okay, but I felt like the author didn’t take a strong enough stance on her eating disorder. I mean, she’s anorexic, but the author just treats it like it’s a really intense weight loss strategy and doesn’t ever show any of the negative physical or emotional side effects.

It also drove me crazy that the author leaves most of the girls’ stories without closure. It seemed to me like she just ended the book randomly, and I was left going, “Uh…what?”

As you can tell, there are a lot of viewpoints in the book, and that made it kinda hard to keep track of who’s who, especially at first. I had to keep referring back to the list at the beginning to keep them all straight. I also felt like all those viewpoints kept the book from having a clear message. I was left with the impression that the author was trying to tell me something, I just wasn’t sure what it was.

Overall, I liked the idea of the book but thought there were too many characters that I couldn’t connect with or who drove me crazy. I also thought it fell flat at the end and left me a little confused about what I was supposed to get out of the book.

Rating 2.5 / 5


  1. It is so difficult to get so many characters just right. Which is why I fear having a cast of thousands in a book. It's also really dangerous for a book to tackle this kind of top. I'd love to see Melina Marchetta give this a try! I wouldn't mind reading this one out of sheer curiosity.

  2. Huh, sounds like it falls short. I was looking forward to this one, but it's possible I may not like where it ends. I still might check it out, we'll see. Thanks for the honest review! :)

  3. I really like the idea behind this one as well, but I've read other reviews that say the same thing - too many characters spoil the broth.


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