BOOK REVIEW: The List, by Siobhan Vivian

the list
Date(s) read: December 5 – 10, 2012
Genre: YA Contemporary


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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.

My Thoughts

This was quite the interesting read. When I started reading it, I wondered if high school really is like this nowadays. When I was in high school (a billion years ago), I remember there being some bullying (or just mean kids, in general), but it was usually minor — nothing like what this book shows, a list outlining the prettiest and ugliest girls in each grade. It was kind of intense to read some of the story, that’s for sure.

The story had many different narrators — all of the girls on the list had a chapter for each day. The story starts on the Monday and ends on the Saturday, so we get to see how the list affects each girl on the list each day. Some girls think nothing of it, and others take the list way too far. But aside from the list itself, we get to see what life is actually like for some of these girls, and underneath the aesthetics that the people in the school see, whether or not someone is “pretty” or “ugly,” we see that for some girls, there are other issues going on. For example, one girl who’s deemed as “prettiest” is suffering from anorexia.

It was interesting to see the POV of each of these girls. But, in the same sense, I wanted more depth. It was great to see some of the girls grow as characters, but when there are so many issues going on in the story, it’s easy to want a focus on just one character. Eight characters is quite a lot to focus on in a story that’s just over 300 pages. There’s kind of a resolution in the end, but I found myself wanting more meat to the story. 

Part of me also felt like something like the list would’ve been dealt with, rather than something that would still be going on after years. I mean, these days bullying isn’t something that’s taken lightly, so I would think that either parents or the school board would do something about it. I guess there’s also part of me that wants to think that kids can’t be that cruel, especially in this day and age.

Of course, Vivian’s writing is something. I was definitely interested the whole way through the story and found her writing to be very accessible. I can see myself checking out more of her works in the future.



15 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEW: The List, by Siobhan Vivian

  1. As someone who works with at-risk kids in middle school, I can vouch that bullying is a serious epidemic in our schools. while some schools handle it better than others, there is no way to eradicate it completely. I think that if the bullies are unknown (as in, the kid won’t report their names for fear of retaliation), then the best thing that can happen is for the kid to learn coping skills, build self-confidence, find positive outlets, etc…*sigh*

    Anywho, thanks for bringing this book to my attention. I want to read more contemporary, and I always tend to lean towards the “tough issues” books.

    • Well, I hope you like it, if you get a chance to pick it up. I like tough issue books, but sometimes I just can’t wrap my head around the things that happen, even if I KNOW that they do happen in real life.

  2. I think that kids can be very cruel indeed. I also echo what Smash Attack Ash says about bullying being a serious epidemic — that is true and yes some schools totally handle it better than others.

    I absolutely loved The List, gave it 5 stars I think, but in retrospect, I do wish that there were better/stronger resolutions for each of the characters, so that’s a great point you raise.

  3. This is one of the books that I’ve been really wanting to read. I have been craving some good contemporary lately.. lol I’ve always been interested by this book, since learning about it, so I should probably try to read it soon!

  4. Actually, something very similar happened to me and the girls in my class in grade 9… one of the girls in my class got the boys to rank each girl from most attractive to least attractive, and then she posted the average rank list in the hallway for everyone to see. No parents or school board did anything about it, probably because they didn’t know about it… It was a pretty shitty experience, as you can imagine, and is still the root of much of my self esteem issues…

    ANYWAYS. I’m not sure if I would read this because it might hit a bit too close to home for me. Then again, that might be the reason I should. I do think 8 narrators is a bit too much, but I do like the concept of the novel.

    • That’s terrible! Maybe I just went through high school with blinders on … I do know that there is a LOT of bullying going on, but I still feel so ignorant of the topic.

      And eight narrators was a LOT. Probably too much.

  5. This sounds like an interesting issue, although I can see where you would want more focus on a couple main characters.

    Something a bit similar happened in my school. Someone made a list basically bashing at least half of the people in my grade (I was a new kid and generally flew under the radar, so I wasn’t on it). But it was very mean! Comments ranged from stupid “people hate you because your dad drives a smart car” to very hurtful and untrue “your uncle in Hong Kong raped you” (I know that one is untrue because it was about my friend and her response was “I don’t even have an uncle in HK”). I think my school handled it fairly well, although I don’t know the details. But, basically, it doesn’t seem that far-fetched to me.

    • Kids can be so, so cruel. I really think that parents need to teach kids to be even more compassionate and empathetic towards others. There’s got to be something that’s making people like this, BUT I guess we’ll never know. It’s just so heartbreaking that people can be like this.

  6. Pingback: Clock Rewinders on a Book Binge (23) | Reading In Winter

  7. I like the multiple pov’s and i can tell you my youngest just graduated and was bullied horribly by other girls, we are glad to be done!

  8. I have a feeling that this book would break my heart. Bullying is something that I’ve personally experienced, and I think that reading about it would make me sad. I am curious about this book though, since a lot of people really liked it – so that might convince me to pick it up eventually.

My home is where my books are. - Ellen Thompson

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