Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The List (YA)

The List. Siobhan Vivian. 2012. Scholastic. 336 pages.

From the prologue: For as long as anyone can remember, the students of Mount Washington High have arrived at school on the last Monday in September to find a list naming the prettiest and the ugliest girl in each grade. This year will be no different.

The List has an interesting enough premise. It is a novel with eight narrators. The prettiest freshman, ugliest freshman, prettiest sophomore, ugliest sophomore, prettiest junior, ugliest junior, prettiest senior, ugliest senior. Each girl, of course, has a name, but at least at first, names and personalities don't matter oh-so-much. The focus is on the label, the judgment. It is a question-driven novel, in a way.

How do others see me? Is that how I see myself? Do I care what everyone else thinks? Who is this 'everyone' else anyway? Do I feel prettier or uglier than I did the day before the list was posted? Am I going to let the list change me? Am I going to let myself be defined and objectified by others?

One of the strengths of the novel is showing that every single person on the list is a human being. No matter the appearance, no matter the popularity ranking. A pretty girl can have just as many problems and issues going on in her life as the next person. Being pretty doesn't mean living life problem-free without a concern or care in the world. The prettiest junior girl, for example, has an eating disorder. This problem popped up over the summer. And others may see her as beautiful, as pretty, as having everything she could possibly want or need. But all she knows is that food is the enemy, that fat is the enemy, that eating means that she will no longer be beautiful. She cannot accept herself or see herself as she truly is. She doesn't love herself. Her daily life is a torment to her in many ways. Yet she is supposed to be thrilled, happy, ecstatic that she is the most beautiful girl in her class.

I think at least five or six of these characterizations would have been strong enough to carry an entire novel. With eight narrators, little justice can be done to each story. So at times it was all a little too much.

The ending. I didn't really like this ending at all. I thought the last fifty or so pages of this one was a mess. Yes, books can have tricks; twists or turns that you aren't supposed to see coming. But. I felt that the ending would ruin any rereading of the novel. (Of course, I haven't tried it myself.) It's just that the semi-big-reveal doesn't feel right to me. It doesn't feel natural to how the character was presented up until that point. If it had just been a story or conflict between these two characters--the prettiest senior and the ugliest senior--if the whole novel had been about these two, then I think it might have worked better. It could have shown the necessary depth. These two were friends--close friends--in junior high. But before the start of high school, the prettiest dumped the ugliest. This relationship--past and present--could have been explored more. I think that just enough was revealed to create a spark of interest, but then it all ends right there.

Have you read this one? What did you think?

Read The List
  • If you like high school dramas set during Homecoming Week
  • If you like realistic YA
  • If you like books about mean girls and/or bullies
  • If you are looking for 'issue' books (bullying, eating disorders, etc.)
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


BlackHeart 2:37 PM  

Actually, when I read the quick synopsis, I freaked out. I was like "Oh, no! Someone wrote my story already," but then I went on read more and was like "oh, that's okay. That's been done before."
It sounds like a good read and I'd pick up it, except if the ending is bad like you said. Then I'd stay far away. Right now, I'm maybe/maybe not.

BlackHeart 2:38 PM  

Actually, when I read the quick synopsis, I freaked out. I was like "Oh, no! Someone wrote my story already," but then I went on read more and was like "oh, that's okay. That's been done before."
It sounds like a good read and I'd pick up it, except if the ending is bad like you said. Then I'd stay far away. Right now, I'm maybe/maybe not.

Ms. Yingling 4:24 AM  

I was oddly intrigued, but found this really unbelievable. Won't be buying it for middle school.

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I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

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