The List by Siobhan Vivian (website | twitter)
Publisher: Push (imprint of Scholastic)
Upcoming Release Date: April 1, 2012
Target Audience: Young Adult
Format: ARC received from Scholastic at ALA Mid-Winter (Thank you!)
How I heard about it: Discussed with a Scholastic rep at ALA.
Summary: Every year an anonymous list is published around school. The list documents the prettiest and ugliest girls from freshmen through seniors. This story documents how this “tradition” impacts each of the girls chosen on this year’s list.
I am completely in love with screwy stories. And, oh, what a screwy story this was. The whole concept of the list is so messed up. Eight girls are targeted each year — four “pretty” and four “ugly”. I use quotations because no one deserves the right to deem someone as either of those things.
But it’s a tradition at this school.
The story chronicles the impact the anonymous list has on each of the eight girls. It’s told from an omnipotent, third-person point of view. Each chapter cycled through a new girl, and slowly I began to see how each of the girls were connected or judged. At times, the story was a bit hard to follow because getting to know eight major characters was a big task. Each of them had friends or family members that were also mentioned. The story is character heavy, but Vivian handled this with ease and I felt each girl had a well-developed story by the time I turned the final page. (The list is published at the beginning of the book and I found this to be a helpful reference guide until I could distinguish each girl.)
My favorite takeaway from this book is that what one might consider pretty, another might consider ugly. We’re all so unique and special. No two of us are alike. Some girls took the news in stride, while others were completely crushed by it. I wondered how I would have been classified back in high school, and really loved that Vivian pointed out that not only external beauty is considered pretty. Sometimes an externally pretty person is quite the opposite inside. I knew a good number of those kinds of girls in high school.
At its heart, this is a book about how we take what society says about us and choose whether or not to believe it. Outsiders take what society says about us and sometimes believe it, too, even if the logic is flawed and skewed.
There were two girls I particularly connected with: Danielle and Lauren. Danielle made the ugly list and people called her “Dan the Man.” Lauren made the pretty list, but was shocked by this because no one knew her — she was new to the school and formerly home-schooled. Danielle was an athlete (a swimmer) who was stockier than most of the toothpick thin girls, but she had immeasurable amounts of trouble when her boyfriend didn’t stand up for her to his jock buddies. Lauren was…homely…and sweet as pie, but had a mother who clung to her way too tightly.
For there being so many characters, Vivian did an awesome job allowing me to get to know each one of them. There were things I wish I had gone a little deeper, however. For all the talk about Danielle being described as “Dan the Man,” I don’t recall much of a detailed physical description of her. There was a bit of back story that I wanted to be further developed and fine tuned. These things, of course, are minor, but I would have happily devoured more of The List.
In fact, the ending allows for the story to continue. I really, really hope there’s more. I am not quite sure I’m ready to break up with eight women all at once.