The List

Posted September 6, 2012 by Tara in Review /// 3 Comments

I know those are supposed to be the girls from the book, but not sure which girls.

The List
by Siobhan Vivian
Library copy from Junior Library Guild
[#57 in my 75 book challenge]

Every year a list is published naming the ugliest girls in each grade and the prettiest girls. No one knows who writes the list, but everyone knows who is on it. This book uses alternating narration to tell the story of all eight girls on the list, starting with the day the list is published (Monday) and ending six days later with the highly-anticipated homecoming dance (Saturday). Though each girl has a different story and different struggles (even the pretty ones), their tales are interwoven though the drama and politics of the high school social scene that we all can identify with.

Here are our major players:

Margo (Prettiest Senior) — She pretty much knew she deserved it.

Jennifer (Ugliest Senior) — Has been on the list for four straight years.

Bridget (Prettiest Junior) — Has a scary obsession with being thin.

Sarah (Ugliest Junior) — The rebel of the group.

Lauren (Prettiest Sophomore) — She’s new to high school from homeschooling.

Candace (Ugliest Sophomore) — A pretty girl with an ugly personality.

Abby (Prettiest Freshman) — She may be pretty, but she’s having a hard time passing science.

Danielle (Ugliest Freshman) — She’s a swimmer with an athlete’s body…and she wonders how her boyfriend will take her presence on The List.

If you hate books with multiple plots and narrators, then this is obviously not the book for you. There’s a lot going on here, all under the looming shadow of the question, “Who wrote the list? Why did he/she write it?” The characters were more developed than I thought they would be, considering the page count, but readers still only get glimpses of characters and their motivations. On top of that, a few of the plots are left unresolved…which I guess is what happens in real life, but I’m not sure it was purposeful here.

FINAL GRADE:  C-  If you like traditional YA contemporaries, you’ll like this. If you tend to be a little critical of your literature or want sometime new/fresh/exciting, you may want to seek something else. This is one of those books that I think actual YA’s might appreciate, so I recommend putting it in a school library (even middle school should be fine, though there is some sex going on). Adults, however, may be bothered by the fact that the adults in the story just never seem to intervene and stop the business of the list writing. I also wanted to shake a few of the girls. But hey, I want to shake my sixteen-year-old self, too. Oh well.

Do you wish you could shake your sixteen-year-old self? Do you agree that some YA is better suited to actual YA’s than it is to adults?


Tara is a PhD student studying education. Her dissertation will be on digital book communities as public pedagogy (ask her about it!), though she often takes a break from all of that to read books about oppressive governments and sassy teenagers. In a former life, she was a middle school teacher and middle school librarian. In her future life, she's a professor of YA lit. In her free time, she drinks a lot of coffee while planning her next grand adventure (there's always something).

Tags: , , , , /// 3 Comments

3 responses to “The List

  1. I thought some of the girls are undeveloped, and the downside of Vivian using third person is that all of the girls sounded the same. The book may have been stronger if she’d focused on a few of the girls instead of all of them, but I get why she wanted to tell all of their stories.

  2. It sounds like an interesting concept, even though I find multiple narrators a bit annoying if it isn’t done well. I can’t blame the book for not allowing adults to intervene because I remember something similar in my middle school days. How did the adults not know what was going on? I have a better answer to that as I am now a high school teacher, and guardian of a current teenager. She shows me what pops up on her Facebook feed, and I’m like, “Who are these kids?” They are the same ones who sit in my classes, but I have a better understanding of how little I really know them.

    And yes, I want to shake my sixteen year old self. Why was I always slouching? I know my teenaged self wouldn’t listen to my reasons about good posture and confidence but maybe if I reminded her that her boobs would look better if she wasn’t so busy developing bad posture?

Leave a Reply