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.