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Review: The List by Siobhan Vivian

Title: The List
Author: Siobhan Vivian
Year Published: 2012

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 332
Rating: 4 out of 5

Geography Connection (my Google Reading map): USA

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school library

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): It happens every year before homecoming: the list is posted all over school. Two girls are picked from each grade. One is named the prettiest, one the ugliest. The girls who aren't picked are quickly forgotten. The girls who are become the center of attention. Each one has a different reaction to the experience. Abby's joy at being named prettiest is clouded by her sister's resentment. Danielle worries about how her boyfriend will take the news. Lauren is a homeschooled girl blindsided by her instant popularity. Candance isn't ugly, not even close, so it must be a mistake. Bridget knows her summer transformation isn't something to celebrate. Sarah has always rebelled against traditional standards of beauty, and she decides to take her mutiny to the next level. And Margo and Jennifer, ex-best friends who haven't spoken in years, are forced to confront why their relationship ended.

Review: What a horrible idea: a list of the ugliest and the prettiest. While on the surface it seems that the "ugly" girls will be devastated and the "pretty" ecstatic, that isn't the way it works out at all. Reading this book really made me reach back to my years in high school and think about how I felt when I felt popular or not, pretty or not, talented or not, smart or not. We've all been there and experienced both sides of ourselves depending on the day. To have it labeled and announced to the entire student body at our most vulnerable time seems so awful.

I really liked the way each girl's reaction was different from the others and in turn was very personal. We got the background to the feelings and how the week plays out, not just the immediate reaction to the list. Because life isn't that straightforward. With the book giving us the week before the homecoming dance, and the dance itself, we also get to see how various characters react initially and after a few days with time to reflect. Those girls that are strongest on the inside do better, wherever they were on the list, which isn't a surprise, but does give hope.

Vivian doesn't just include the reactions of the 8 girls to the list, but their friends and classmates. It is amazing what publicly announcing information will do for a crowd. At times, it really isn't pretty. I would think everyone not on the list would feel relieved.

About half way through the book I began to wonder how it could possibly end. Each girls' story has so far to go, but the author does a good job of satisfying the reader with the events at the homecoming dance. Everything is certainly not resolved, but we get a sense that each girl is aware of her issues and what they should do. However, we also know they will not necessarily do what is best.

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