The List by Siobhan Vivian
Published by: Harlequin
Format: ARC e-book
We were really looking forward to reading this book because it deals with eight different perspectives, much like our beloved Clearwater Crossing. Also Siobhan Vivian has co-authored the Burn For Burn trilogy with Jenny Han and I liked Siobhan’s character a lot more than Jenny Han’s. Basically, the book had a lot of promise.
Unfortunately, dealing with multiple perspectives can have it’s down side, mostly that one character can become more prominent, or all characters could be underdeveloped. While the characters themselves weren’t under developed – they all had their own issues! – their storylines came to an abrupt end. A lot of the conflicts were left unresolved, and we found ourselves waiting the whole time for that ‘something bug’ to happen.
P L O T
The List is a tradition for every year, a week before Homecoming, and calls out one girl for being the ugliest, and one for being the prettiest in each grade. We follow all the girls on the list up until homecoming. There’s also a slight sub-plot of ‘who wrote the list?!?!’
C H A R A C T E R S
Danielle – Her conflict consisted of being labelled ‘Dan the Man’. She was all about proving to the male population, specifically her douche-y boyfriend, that she was, in fact, a girl. Danielle was a swimmer, and wanted to make it to the JV team but felt pressured to give up her dreams in order to protect her reputation (because since when has sport only been for boys?) She had a best friend, Hope, and there could have been a lot of rivalry there that wasn’t played upon. Their friendship was quite flat, though Hope was super sweet.
Abby – Is embarrassed by her older sister Fern, who is super smart whereas she is failing her classes, potentially ruining her chances of going to Homecoming. As a freshman, she is over-excited by being on the list and, along with her best friend Lisa, is immature and self-obsessed. Abby was our joint least favourite character, but somehow she manages to get the majority of the plot attention. She was vindictive to her sister and used the fact that she was pretty to think she was better than others.
Candace – Thinks she was going to be the prettiest on the list. When she turns out to be called the ugliest, her friends reject her. The most interesting part of Candace’s sections were the relationship she had with her mum, which paralleled the close relationship Lauren had with her mother. Candace and Lauren’s storylines wouldn’t work without each other.
Lauren – The new girl, after being homeschooled by her over-protective, helicopter mother, who thinks teenage girls can’t genuinely be friends with each other, because she’s sheltered her daughter too much. Lauren’s story had the least amount of conflict resolution.
Sarah – Her story just revolves around her rejecting personal hygiene to prove that if people call her ugly, she will be. There’s also some boyfriend trouble, but it’s mainly about her resolve not to wash.
Bridgit – Is named the prettiest after a summer of working hard to desperately lose weight. This inevitably leads to an eating disorder that she can’t admit to herself. Again, very little closure, but she reminded us of Nicole from Clearwater Crossing so it was easy to fill in the blanks. She’s the older sister of Lisa, and never really thought of how her actions would affect Lisa’s own perception of her body. For all we learned her, Brigit has no friends and no personality.
Jennifer – Scorned for all four years of high school as the ugliest, but this year she’s decided to own it. Margo’s friends, Dana and Rachel, are super nice to her to try and make up for all the years she’s been made to feel like an outcast.
Margo – Victimised because of the list, she’s made to seem crueller than she was and people suspect that she was the one to write the list as it turns out she has some shady history with Jennifer.
The List attempted to make some kind of comment about the way girls view each other, and the value of believing yourself and the meaninglessness of popularity, but it mostly falls flat for everyone apart from Danielle who ends with a pretty rad group of friends. There are so many girls in this story, even more than the main eight, that you would think there would be some strong female friendship, but a lot of them felt like fair-weather friends and cattiness meant that you couldn’t trust any of them. Overall, it doesn’t give a very pleasant interpretation of high school life.
V E R D I C T
By the end we were left with more questions unanswered. There was definitely a lack of closure, and, to be honest, this could almost have been a four book mini-series, where focus could’ve been more devoted to each year group. However, it needed so many characters in this one book to flesh out the story which was just one big build up to Homecoming. On the plus side, they all had something different happening to them, but things could become repetitive and, I hate to say it, a bit boring. The concept of the List felt like something that could happen in a high school fuelled by labels, and the girls themselves felt realistic – or maybe it’s just because there were so many high-school cliches littered throughout – but there just wasn’t enough closure considering the amount we’re supposed to sympathise with these girls. Overall, the book was disappointing, and we give it 2 stars for not satisfying our expectations.