This is my first must-read recommendation of the new school year: The List by Siobhan Vivian. This is a quick read filled with humor, drama, amazing characters and a lot of food for thought. It goes through a week in the lives of eight girls who attend Mount Washington High (I had to read this book for the name of the school alone!). For as long as anyone can remember the last Monday in September is marked by the posting of “The List” – the name of the prettiest and ugliest girls in each grade. Copies of The List are plastered all over the school – no one can escape them. The book starts on Monday, with a chapter devoted to each of the girls for every day of the week leading up to the Homecoming Dance on Saturday night. Some of the girls expected to be listed, such as Jennifer, who has been on every year. Others are startled, such as Abby and Danielle, who don’t think of themselves as pretty or ugly, respectively.
Obviously, you know going into a book like this that you’re going to find out that these girls have a lot in common underneath their surface differences. What makes this story unique is Vivian’s writing style; she creates such warm and relatable characters and snappy dialogue that I was drawn in right from the beginning. With one exception I cared about each of these girls right from the start. They all react to the news in different ways and the most interesting thing to me was that the “pretty” girls feel so much pressure with their title that they don’t enjoy it. Some of the “ugly” girls are mystified, too: Danielle wonders if the muscles she has built up from swimming landed her on the list and Candace knows the list is a joke because everyone knows she’s really the prettiest girl in her class. Candace is the one person I didn’t like because she is the quintessiential mean girl, so she’s on the list for being “ugly on the inside.”
What really struck me was that Candace’s group of friends are the only characters in the book that aren’t named, which I think signifies how interchangeable they are to Candace since she only cares about herself. My favorite character in the book is Lisa, who is genuinely happy that her best friend and her sister are both deemed “prettiest.” By the end of the book a lot of the girls realize that they should be supporting each other instead of competing. I think that’s what Vivian wants readers to take away from her novel, which is my favorite part.