Bam! For a novel I picked up at Target because I needed something lighter and reading palette cleansing (my previous books were a horrible non-fiction and a really long novel that felt like it would never end) this novel produced! The List by Siobhan Vivian is one of my favorite books of the year!
The premise is centered on a list that is published every year the Monday before homecoming. The list names the prettiest girl and ugliest girl for each four classes and is sealed with the old Mount Washington High School diploma stamp that was stolen long ago from the principal’s office (it gives the selected names an official standing). The novel deals with the fallout in the lives of the eight girls.
What I loved about The List was that Vivian did not take the straight forward approach that many writers do for their young adult novels. There was a subtly to figuring out the mystery as to who or what group is/are responsible for the list as well as the ramifications of being named both “prettiest” and “ugliest” as something that had pros and cons despite where any particular girl fell. I loved how being named the prettiest girl in a class was not about developing a bloated ego, but an entry to the high school experience for one, and individual recognition for another. Being called ugliest for a few let of the young women allowed them to see just who had their backs and who didn’t.
I adored how friendships were explored. Nothing was ever cut and dry and the characters were relatable no matter what your age because certain issues will continue to plague you at seventeen or seventy-seven. Sometimes a gal just wants support from her friends which requires them to allow her to forget something troubling. There are also times when a woman gets advice even if she doesn’t want it. Most of all I appreciated how Vivian turned a common character trope inside out. I would write more about but honestly, because it is an interesting talking point, but I think it would take something away for readers so I am zipping it up.
The List would be a perfect book club selection. It is a fast read, always a plus when dealing with a group, and it lends itself to a variety of discussions. Topics could include everything from an individual’s high school experience to wanting to know where each of these characters go afterwards. This is also a book that would make a wonderful assignment for middle or high school classes; perhaps something that could be paired with the male-centered The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton. My only concern would be it inspiring some student/s trying to mimic an actual list.
I reiterate, I want to know where these characters go afterwards. I want to know if for of these young women the lines that were drawn because of the list continues to fracture the bonds of sisters, mothers, or friends. Personally I see high school as the foundation of society at large except much more intense and made up of a population that have little life experience in which to fall back on. In some ways it could be described as a Rousseau sociological inspired “blank slate.” Thus I hope I hope Vivian revisits these young women as they grow further into womanhood.
Obviously I recommend The List even for readers who might shy away from anything that falls under the “young adult” moniker. Siobhan Vivian’s has weaved a tale about female relationships (romantic, family, and friends) that is so much better than many written in fancier novels by more established writers. Vivian has other novels, but based on my experience with this one, I believe she has the potential to be this generation’s Judy Blume.