Review

The List, Siobhan Vivian

I’ve just come back from an amazing week-long holiday in Croatia.  While I was there I read three books on my Kindle Touch.  One of those books was this one.

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I had seen this book in Waterstones a couple of times and after reading the blurb I was instantly taken in.  Initially the plot line reminded me a lot of Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill which was why I wanted to read it so badly.  I’ve recently been trying to buy fewer books so I opted to buy this on my Kindle.  (I know it’s kind of cheating but I can’t stop buying books completely!)

The List tells the story of an American high school where, every year, a list comprising of the prettiest and ugliest girls in each year is published all over the school.  The list is hotly anticipated by the older girls and guys but completely unknown to the freshman girls.  The book follows each girl on the list from the day of the list becoming public to the night of the homecoming dance that same week.  I love that the narrative splits off into every girl but at first it was very hard to keep track of who is who.  As there are 4 school years in American high school, there were eight different versions of the same week.  As I used my Kindle, I was able to highlight and bookmark the page that contained a copy of the list which I used as a reference.  I strongly recommend doing the same (even for a paperback) so you don’t get confused about the characters.

As you can imagine, each of the girl’s lives changed dramatically due to the list.  At first it seemed that only the girls listed as ugly would do badly from being named and shamed but Siobhan Vivian quickly shows us that any superficial attention in a high school will lead to consequences, both good and bad.  The added mystery of the unknown author of the list each year creates a sense of loss and the idea that everyone and anyone can be judging these girls.

Although the plot is entirely fictional (or at least I strongly hope so) it carries real world messages that every school age girl knows and understands.  No matter how hard you try to avoid it, peer pressure and social norms force girls to care about the appearances of themselves and others.  The most interesting aspect of the book is that the list only concerns the girls despite the high school having male students as well.  It reflects on the everyday sexism encountered by girls at school and in general.  It is because of this that I appreciate that each of the stories inside are not dramatic.  They are realistic consequences of girls being judged on their appearances every day.

It is not a particularly long book – I finished it in a couple of days on my holiday – but it is a powerful one.  Nearly a week on and I can’t stop thinking about it.

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