Monday 21 May 2012


Book review: The List by Siobhan Vivian

My edition: Hardcover, published in 2011 by Push, 332 pages.

Description: 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.



Every year an anonymous author produces a list of the "prettiest" and "ugliest" girls in each grade at Mount Washington High School and distributes hundreds of copies of this all around the school. This year's list is as follows:

Ugliest: Danielle DeMarco, also known as Dan the Man.
Prettiest: Abby Warner, bonus points awarded for overcoming family genetics!

Ugliest: Candace Kincaid, beauty isn't just skin-deep, btw.
Prettiest: Lauren Finn, everyone's hot for the new girl.

Ugliest: Sarah Singer, it's like she’s trying to be as ugly as possible.
Prettiest: Bridget Honeycutt, what a difference a summer can make.

Ugliest: Jennifer Briggs, (drumroll, please) The only four-peat in Mount Washington history! Congrats, Jennifer!
Prettiest: Margo Gable, all hail this year’s homecoming queen!"

The novel follows the lives of these eight girls in the week leading up to the Homecoming Dance and depicts the impact the stamp of "pretty" and "ugly" has on each of them, their friends, peers and families. From the new girl becoming popular overnight to the taunts following another deemed ugly.

Author Siobhan Vivian has created an original concept to show some of the problems facing high school girls nowadays and the unfortunate misconception that they have as to what's pretty, what isn't and that being "pretty" is defining as to who they are. How others perceive them breaks their self-esteem and because of this the girls on the list face problems such as anorexia and bullying.

Unfortunately the book's fantastic premise and its realistic and interesting characters are ultimately forgotten after the reader hits the highly unsatisfying ending. The conclusion seems very abrupt and leaves several storylines open amounting to a lot of questions (Will Jeniffer keep her promise? What will happen to Lauren? And Bridget? To name a few).

Furthermore, the final sentence is such an overused stereotype - the one thing Vivian was trying to fight against by showing the girls are vastly different from the stereotypes they were labeled as - that it leaves a feeling of disappointment. The List would be 5 star novel were it not for that final page.

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