Like most high schools, Mount Washington High, has many traditions. No one knows how the list was started or who writes the list each year, but every year there it is infecting the lives of eight high school girls. The Monday before the annual Homecoming dance and football game a list, listing the ugliest and pretties of all four grades, is plastered around the school.
Siobhan Vivian’s, The List, travels through the week with the eight girls on the list. Each chapter is a new perspective; each intertwined and connected with the last. All eight girls handle the list differently but all learn valuable lessons about the school, their friends and family, and their choices.
It is one thing to think you are ugly or pretty, but it is an entirely different thing to have it announced across the school that everyone else thinks you are ugly (or pretty) too. Sarah, Abby, Bridget, Lauren, Candace, Margo, Jennifer, and Danielle have to decide if they are going to let what others think define them. For some the list is a blessing in disguise. For others the list is the start of something special. For all, the list brings a new revelation. No matter the label every girl has their inner strains, and is struggling to overcome the challenge of defending (or living up to) the labels. Unfortunately, the way others perceive you is connected to the way you perceive yourself. The girls think they are able to overcome their connection to the list and what others are saying about them. But they judge themselves based on how others are judging them. No matter what, each girl listed wants to be more than the list. They feel they have something to prove, a statement to make.
The prettiest start to dream of the perfect homecoming dance and game, but start to realize that being the prettiest is not all that it is cracked up to be. The ugliest want more, and search inside of themselves to break through the judgments. Like it or not, all eight girls need each other to overcome the discomforts. Soon everyone realizes the “ugly” girls can be pretty and the “pretty” girls can be ugly.
All eight girls are heard throughout the book beautifully. Throughout the chapters the reader is able to see the progression of the girls. What they thought and felt at the beginning of the novel are not how they feel at the end. There is wonderful insight to the entire thought process. It was never confusing or jumbled together. It was great to see how they were all connected and related. The addition of family members and other girls not on the list just flesh out the book. The side characters add dimension and seal home the point of the story.
Siobhan Vivian in the end focused on the larger picture, and left a lot up to the perspective of the reader. All of the questions don’t need to be answered. The List is a snapshot. One week in the lives of eight high school girls. The lessons learned take time to set in. Change doesn’t happen overnight. Siobhan Vivian does an incredible job keeping the focus of the week, and showing the progression over the course of six days. Yes, I do wonder what happened to the girls and their families beyond Homecoming, but I have high hopes. They have seen and felt the worse of what high school can offer. I believe they are able to rise above the list.