Thursday, March 29, 2012

Book Review: The List, by Siobhan Vivian


Vivian, Siobhan. The List. 332 p. Push. 2012. Hardcover $17.99. ISBN 9780545169172. 

High school can be tough. The latest title from Siobhan Vivian is set in a school with a dark tradition. Each year, an anonymous list is posted all over campus to proclaim the ugliest and prettiest girl in each grade. The List tells the stories of how these labels affect the eight girls singled out this time.

The spare prose in third-person present-tense makes for an quick, thoroughly engrossing read. With eight protagonists, it sometimes took me a second to mentally adjust from one to another and recall their concerns and situation-- like "Oh yeah, the girl with the boyfriend" or "the girl with the little sister." But Vivian writes each character in a distinct and memorable way, which is an impressive feat with such a large cast. Most compelling to me were athletic Danielle, trying to find her footing as a physically strong girl who doesn't necessarily want to feel unfeminine, and Candace, dethroned mean girl who has to learn how to be nice.

Each character's story is individual, but the girls' lives intertwine in intriguing and sometimes surprising and ways. Some of the secondary characters could have been more fully fleshed out (Why was Lauren's mom so controlling?), and some of the protagonists didn't have a strong sense of character evolution or closure at the end of their stories. But perhaps it's more realistic that way, and Vivian leaves it up to the reader to consider the fates of all the girls. The text also naturally invites the reader to decide which they might see themselves reflected in-- which characters they want to be like, and which characters they don't.

All in all, even though I wish there had been a little more "oomph" to the ending, I loved reading this. Vivian's writing style is addictive, and I spent a couple of nights reading way past my bedtime. This look at the way girls see themselves and are affected by others' perceptions is thought-provoking-- a highly compelling read that would make an excellent high school book club pick.

Look for The List in bookstores everywhere on April 1. ARC for review was kindly passed along to me by my local indie bookseller.

12 comments:

  1. I enjoyed this book, too. However, there were some things that bothered me:

    *I felt Bridget's issue was never completely resolved.

    *I hated the way Margo treated Jennifer. That storyline really affected me, and I didn't completely get where the author was going. Neither girl was redeemable in the end (but maybe that isn't always the goal? I don't know).


    I was just talking with Jo the other day about why readers gravitate to stories with trauma, where characters tear each other down rather than building up one another. This book seemed to fit into that category.

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    1. I was a little bothered that Bridget's story didn't get resolved, but I guess it's realistic that sometimes things don't have a tidy solution. I didn't like Margo for the way she treated Jennifer, but I felt that, too, was realistic. What I found interesting, though, was that Jennifer wasn't just a sweet, undeserving victim! THAT was quite different from the normal "mean girls" stereotype!

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  2. The emotion in this book is bound to get to me. I don't know if I could read about something so heinous done to schoolgirls with enough troubles as it is, but it definitely appears to be compelling. Glad you enjoyed it!

    Asher

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    1. It's hard to read about some of this stuff, but in a good, thought-provoking way. I think books like this help raise awareness about bullying, which is sorely needed.

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  3. I have seen this one around occasionally and it is definitely on my TBR list!

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    1. It's a good one! Quick to read, because you just have to keep going to find out what's going to happen to these girls...

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  4. I agree COMPLETELY with your review. Fun read, a little of a weak ending for me.

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    1. Yeah, I wish it had been a stronger ending. Still, I think the book provides a lot of food for thought.

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  5. In case any of you want to win a copy of this book, you can comment on our interview with Siobhan here: http://crunchingsandmunchings.wordpress.com/2012/04/06/siobhan-vivian-interview/

    I also stayed up way too late reading this, and thought the 8 person perspective was daring - you don't see it very much these days.

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    1. Thanks for sharing about your contest! I'll have to go read the interview. So cool!

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  6. I'm having a hard time deciding whether or not to read this. What made you pick this over the other books in your heaping TBR pile and are you glad you choose this first?

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  7. I couldn't resist a story about such a compelling topic as bullying and mean girls! I am glad I read this when I did- it was a quick, compelling, thought-provoking read that I really enjoyed.

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