Barbara's Reviews > The List

The List by Siobhan Vivian
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May 26, 2012

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bookshelves: bullies, families, friendship, ncbla2013, school, self-esteem
Read in May, 2012

This title was one that I eagerly awaited, and I even loved the cover with a teen girl slumped against her locker, stunned after reading something on a sheet of paper, while around her, life goes on. That's high school in a nutshell, isn't it? Every event seems so important, so earth-shaking, so worthy of analysis, at least until the next big crisis replaces it. The premise in this book is that each year before homecoming a list is posted that contains the names of the prettiest and the ugliest two girls from each class. No one knows who makes up the list, how someone is selected for each category or even how it's posted. Once the current list is revealed, official school stamp on it and all, the storyline follows the eight girls who are named to the list and their various reactions to being included. Now, I love the idea of this list because it fits the whole notion of high school society perfectly. Once someone has been deemed pretty, ugly, cool, uncool, popular or not popular, it often seems that his/her fate has been sealed, and their future lives in high school has been determined. At least from my experience and observation, there is little movement in or out of the social groups. I've often tried to pin down exactly what prompts others to regard someone as pretty or what makes someone popular, and the book provides plenty of opportunity for discussion about those issues as the eight young women on the list struggle or embrace being on the list. All of this plus the book's veracity when it comes to those who seek to bring others down or control them in some way makes the book worth reading and pondering. Unfortunately, the author has to cover too much territory with the eight girls, who collectively, seem to represent just about every teen issue possible; for instance, Bridget has an eating disorder and is repelled by food, and Lauren, a homeschooled girl with no experience with high school politics, loses her way and doesn't know who to trust. There are friendships broken during freshman year that come back to haunt a couple of the girls, and a romance between self-confident swimmer Danielle--dubbed Dan the Man--that can't stand the scrutiny of her cowardly boyfriend Andrew's friends. By allowing each of the girl's voices to be heard over the course of the week leading to homecoming, the author gives her readers glimpses into their mindsets and reactions, but in doing so, she also tries to do too much with too many issues. At the heart of the story, from whatever perspective it is examined, lie these simple truths: Labels can harm others. Fitting in often means becoming someone you fail to recognize. Beauty actually is only skin deep, and some of the most physically attractive human beings behave in ugly ways. This is certainly one worth reading although the wrap-up was too convenient for me.
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