Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The List by Siobhan Vivian

The List by Siobhan Vivian
Release Date:
April 1, 2012
Publisher: Push
Source: Library

Summary

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. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

The List is a breath of fresh air. I love contemporary YA novels, but they are often are so similar that the plots and titles become indistinguishable. Siobhan Vivian's The List stands out from the crowd. It's a hard hitting book showing how the effects of being lifted up onto a pedestal or stomped into oblivion can be devastating or empowering or both.

The writing method sets the book apart from most others. It is told from the alternating points of view of the eight girls on The List, Ms. Beautiful and Ms. Ugly from each grade. Siobhan took a risk by using so many voices. I loved how Siobhan created eight distinct personalities, each with different levels of popularity and different attitudes about the list. Seeing the aftermath of The List from all angles added a depth to the book that first person or third person limited simply cannot. I've read reviews that said that so many voices was confusing and, to tell the truth, it was a little bit. Fortunately, the hardcover book jacket had a little snippet about each character which I would look at to job my memory when the voice switched. I didn't mind having to refer to my cheat sheet, and I was eventually able to remember each character on my own.

There are characters who are easy to like and characters who are hard to like. You have mean girls, shy girls, popular/nice girls, bitter girls, sporty girls, etc. Even though several of the girls were people who I would have hated and who would have hated me in high school, I liked all of them in this book. My favorite kind of book is where you love the characters not because they're nice, but because you understand them. Even though the points of view changed often, I felt like I understood the motivations of each girl, whether I agreed with her actions or not.

With so many voices and sub-plots it would be easy for the book to wander aimlessly, but the plot always moved steadily forward. It's not the type of story with endless twists and turns, but there were surprises to the plot. Not too many, however. The girls largely acted in the way you'd expected people with their personality traits to act. You could think of this negatively as predictable. Or you could choose (as I did) to think of it positively as realistic.

So realistic in fact that the book was sometimes hard to read. I've never heard of a list of the most beautiful and ugliest girls being spread throughout a school, but I can easily see it happening. The plot felt like a train wreck - painful to watch, but you can't take your eyes off it. I hated seeing the List bring down characters that I liked - even those who really did deserve it. There are no winners when it comes to the List. The book had a dark tone that put me in a down mood for the rest of the day. It's the uneasy "there but by the grace of God go I" feeling.

The List is an extremely well done, harshly realistic novel. It's an easy and quick read, but not the light one I expected. Don't read it if you want to stay in a cheerful mood. Definitely pick it up, if you want to read a strong take on the timeless social mind games of high school.

Rating: 4 / 5

19 comments:

  1. I agree with you completely on this book, I read it a few weeks ago and the realness of it was CRAZY. And it really could've gone anywhere, but I'm glad it didn't. Vivian's books are very good!

    ^.^ Great review

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  2. I've been meaning to read this book . . . like for AGES now! Sounds like I must get to it ASAP then! Great review!

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  3. The past few times I've been at the bookstore this book has just been taunting me... and now that I know it's good I think I'll pick it up. Fantastic review!

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  4. Ok I admit the cover isn't exactly my favorite, but the story itself sounds pretty good. It's kind of like one of those books you want to read, but you never get around to reading it.

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  5. I've been sold on this book quite yet. I feel like the whole popularity/mean girl aspect has been overdone a lot lately. I just don't think this bok is right for me but I'm glad you really enjoyed despite the confusing parts.

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  6. Wonderful review!!! I have been meaning to pick it up so many times but always forgot about it again... I liked a few well placed twists and turns and those ones sound just about right! :)

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  7. Wonderful review! the last contemp i read was meh. hoping to read this soon

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  8. OOh, I have been wanting to read this book for a while now. I need something fresh and exciting. Thanks for sharing.

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  9. What is it about high school that the social structure and mind games just don't change? I actually have this one on my shelf and really need to read it. Love when a writer can take a stereotypical HS story and really make it sing.

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  10. I was worried about so many voices, but it sounds like she pulled it off well.
    Thanks for review,
    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

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  11. I was able to see her on a panel. She's so interesting to listen too. If you ever get the chance to see her you should go. Sadly enough, I still haven't read her book though.

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  12. I'm so happy as my library did buy this so I was able to put it on hold! I've enjoyed Vivian's other work and I think she does a great job of looking at girls in high school in often challenging ways. I expect great things from her in this book!

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  13. Though 8 narrators is a lot, this sounds pretty interesting. Is the plot just following the consequences of this list? I'm having a hard time picturing where the story goes from there.

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  14. Wonderful review, Alison! I like that Siobhan was able to create 8 realistic characters without compromising on plot or pacing.

    I've had this on my shelf for months now - must read it soon!

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  15. I confess I don't really read a lot of books in this genre but this one sounds good. I didn't know it but now I'm definitely intrigued!

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  16. I just got this from the library! Very excited to check it out!

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  17. I think this sounds like a really interesting book, and I loved your review of it. Definitely makes me want to read it even more!

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  18. This one is already on my to-read list :-)

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