At Mount Washington High School there has been a long standing tradition every year in the week before Homecoming. That Monday a list written anonymously is distributed all over the school, naming both the prettiest and ugliest girls in each grade. A spot on the list will guarantee you instant infamy, which is not entirely a good thing, even if you are the prettiest. Siobhan Vivian’s The List follows the eight girls whose high school lives’ were irreparably changed when their names appeared on it, above the Mount Washington embossed label meant to identify it as the true list. Danielle, Abby, Candace, Lauren, Sarah, Bridget, Jennifer, and Margo must deal with the consequences of being thought of as pretty or ugly by others, as well as how they feel about themselves. The novel, a slim 332 pages, is told from each of their perspectives, leaving the reader wanting more details. Even the eight main characters were far from fully fleshed out, which is much more than can be said for secondary characters. They each have one main characteristic or issue, rather than a full personality. A subplot about the new principal’s desire to punish the anonymous maker of the list sporadically appears, but is mainly an afterthought. The last few lines of the book, from the perspective of the girl crowned Homecoming Queen; sum up their stories quite nicely: “She’s surprised by the weight. Obviously the rhinestones wouldn’t be diamonds, but [the Homecoming Queen] always assumed the tiara would be metal. It isn’t. It is plastic.”
I would give The List 3 out of 5 stars. While it kept me hooked until the very end, I had some major issues with it. First, as I mentioned above, there are simply too many points of view for a book this size; even a very large novel doesn’t need eight perspectives. While I understand that Vivian wanted to show how the list affected all of them, she could have shown that by choosing fewer perspectives, but having the eight girls interact more; there was only one scene with all of them and they were occasionally with one other girl from the list. Also, the characters fell flat for me. Abby was the pretty but dumb girl, Bridget had an eating disorder, Sarah was the rebel, and Candace was supposed to be the mean girl, but she really wasn’t that bad. There wasn’t much to them. The ending, other than the quote above, was truly terrible. There were too many loose ends for proper closure; even the revealing of the list-maker’s identity was a bit of a letdown. The idea itself was solid and this could have been an amazing book, had Vivian focused more on fewer characters and stereotypical teen issues.