Years ago, someone stole the embossing punch from the principal’s desk. And every year since, at the start of homecoming week, the list comes out. Embossed with the official seal of the high school, the list selects the ugliest and prettiest girls in each grade. No one knows who writes the list, no one knows who passes on the punch, or how the girls are chosen, but it’s a time-honored tradition that signals the beginning of homecoming.
This year’s list will make some girls and break others.
The List by Siobhan Vivian is a haunting look at what image does to girls and what happens on the inside of those we deem beautiful and ugly.
Each chapter focuses on a different girl from the list, how their lives intersect, and how they change after being selected. It shows that being “beautiful” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and that “ugly” can apply to everyone.
I felt deeply for so many of these characters. Sarah, the ugliest junior, decides to live up to everyone’s opinion of her and falls apart as the whole school watches. Bridget, the prettiest junior, developed an eating disorder that got her on the list and now feels incredible pressure to keep the transformation up, to the point of endangering her health.
This is a book, set in a high school, is just a smaller version of what goes on in our larger world. Our culture decides who is worthy and who isn’t and the destruction that causes (to both sides) is painful. In letting others decide your worth, you become worthless.
It was heartbreaking to see girls get so much validation out of a list. It was also heartbreaking to see other girls be destroyed by that same list. I don’t remember high school being this bad, and I hope this is just a fictionalized book and not based on anything remotely true.
The List is definitely a good read, even if the content was a slap in the face. There were funny parts, cringe-worthy parts, and some heartwarming parts. The message was powerful. And the end–wow–I didn’t see that coming.