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 one of those funny stories where you go in not liking anyone and leave loving everyone. Angsty, unhappy, pretty or petty as each girl has their most redeeming qualities laid bare beside their least redeeming qualities you can't help but love how honest their experiences are. It seems to me, far too few YA books whittle their stories down to the most basic elements of being human, and yet in the end that is what all experiences are about.
Vivian uses a multi character narration, first person perspective to show how a list, so simple in its pronouncements has a deep and far reaching effect on all those it touches. Pretty or ugly, on the list or not on the list, all the girls at Mount Washington High are belittled by the yearly tradition. But far worse is how The List illustrates the way women, teenage or otherwise are some of the biggest offenders when it comes to supporting, encouraging and sometimes even creating these hurtful things. It was eye opening and left plenty of food for thought.
Two of my favourite characters were Sarah and Milo. Outcasts who actively shun the mainstream school population but who are still dragged into the drama despite their refusal to conform. I loved how Sarah was both one of the toughest characters of the story and also one of the most fragile, and how Milo single handedly saves her from herself. Now that is a YA love story I want to see more of, no hot sexual tension or mysterious glances, just awkward affection and bumbling attempts at proving you care. If only there were a plethora of real Milo's in every high school, or in life in general.
A beautiful look at what it's like to be a girl in society today, from a multitude of angles, I highly recommend The List makes it on to your reading list and that of any pre-teen and teen you might know looking for their next read.
The List, by Siobhan Vivian
Published by Push, April 1st, 2012
My copy kindly provided by the publisher