Google+ YA Romantics: Standalone Saturday 5 ... The List

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Standalone Saturday 5 ... The List

Time for another Standalone Saturday:

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The List
by Siobhan Vivian
Push/Scholastic Books
April 1, 2012

Source: ARC from my collection

Mature content: a little drinking

Everyone loves lists and rankings, right? They're the kind of things that get you to buy magazines. "Ten Best TV Shows You've Never Heard Of," or "Five Fashion Mistakes You Should Never Make."

My high school had a "Senior Mosts" list. I think that list was a well-meaning endeavor and not a mean one. No award was meant to be an insult, but I can still remember the way it felt during the voting: like everyone was sizing each other up.

The list in this book is one that's posted every year at Mount Washington High School. A list that names the prettiest girl in each grade, and the ugliest.  That's a simple premise that a writer could take in a lot of different directions.


This book opens with the list being posted and follows all eight girls on it, which makes for a lot of narrative perspectives, a lot of characters to follow. It's a testament to Siobhan Vivian's skill as a writer that she makes it work. (It helps that she keeps things in the third person, so that it's easier to remember whose POV you're in.) She adds tension and structure by having the week that the list goes up also be the week leading up to the homecoming dance. During this week, many of the issues raised by the list -- and the dance -- will come to a head.

Each girl has a different reaction to being on the list, and each has her own insecurities and issues. Danielle, a.k.a. "Dan the Man," is on the "ugly" list, and worries that her boyfriend doesn't find her feminine because she's an athlete. Sarah decides to wear her "ugly" award as an angry badge of honor. Bridget starves herself and still doesn't feel like she deserves to be called pretty. Jennifer, named ugliest in her class for the fourth time in a row, suddenly finds that she's a project for a group of popular girls.

It would be easy to take a topic like this and turn it into a book that's melodramatic. Or cheesy. Or preachy. But for me, this book achieved what it set out to accomplish. I found it an engaging, thoughtful, and nuanced look at some of the ways girls and women can be objectified and some of the ways they might respond.

What did I do after reading this book? I put Siobhan Vivian on my list of YA writers to watch. Then I went out and bought Not That Kind of Girl, one of her earlier books.

She's also writing a book with Jenny Han, Burn for Burn, that's coming out in the fall. Yeah, that's on my want-to-read list too!

What do you think about lists that categorize and label people? Are they flattering? Mean? Too much pressure? Just part of life?

Hunger Games Trivia coming in the next post...

23 comments:

  1. This sounds like a great book. I think to have the ugliest on a list is horrible. I hadn't heard of this book before. I will have to check it out sometime.

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    1. Lol obviously it's not out yet. I was having a bit of a slow moment. Need more coffee. I will be putting it on my TBR list.

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    2. Ha -- you and me both!

      Yes, the ugly part of the list is horrible -- can you even imagine? There's a great woman principal character (think Tina Fey in Mean Girls) who actually tries to do something about it all.

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  2. Oh I want to read that one! I will have to look for it.

    The premise reminded me a little of Thirteen Reasons Why because wasn't her being on a list one of the reasons why?

    Shanan
    http://thebookaddictnet.blogspot.com/

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  3. Wow...what an interesting premise for a book. I would hate to be on a list! LOL! Or if I was, I wouldn't want to know about it :-) This is bringing back bad high school memories! haha Still...I think this would be a really interesting read. I wish labels weren't put on people, especially that time in their lives. It was a difficult time for me in some aspects and I can't imagine what it would have been like had we had these lists.

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    1. I know. I was kind of hoping that kind of thing had ended by now. Maybe not!

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  4. I think the concept of lists for vanity reasons is rather mean, but the book sounds really interesting. I'm always interested in reading more stand alones, so that alone would make me want to read this. I can't imagine having gone through something like this in HS. I mean, everyone already has their own lists in their head but it's never pushed out there for the world to see. Mostly...

    Does it follow one girl for a few chapters then the next girl? Or does it tell a bit of each girl and makes a loop over and over throughout the entire book? Cause if it's the latter..I dunno if I could put up with that. I don't really like multiple POVs but if it's done in a clear, consistent way I could get into it.

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    1. Each chapter is a different girl. Some of the girls have interlocking stories (two sisters, for instance.)

      I noticed that some people on Goodreads found all the different POVs too much. Sometimes I feel that way about books. But I thought that in this book it was well done and I could follow it.

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  5. This sounds like a good book to read when it comes out. It would be interesting to see read the eight different girls' perspective.

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  6. Lists don't really mean a whole lot. I don't mind it if it's clear who's POV I am reading. Different chapters works.

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    1. I'm with you, Marybelle. Sometimes in first person it's confusing. Too many "I's."

      A good writer can make all the voices distinct.

      I admit that eight characters is a lot to follow, but for this story it adds something to hear all those perspectives.

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  7. The List sounds like a great book, definitely something I need to read. I think it's cool that there are 8 girls to follow throughout the book, I think that helps to really get the picture of the idea of the list and how the girls are affected. This seems like a very realistic story, can't wait to read it.

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    1. I found it really interesting -- brought back a lot of high school memories, good and not-as-good :)

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  8. This reminds me a little of The Duff. Sounds interesting and I'm becoming a big fan of multiple POV's

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    1. I loved the DUFF! The DUFF has more romance (or at least steam heat) while this book is a little more issue-oriented. But both are great contempt!!

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  9. Based on your review (and I love lists anyway, was just doing some here, not for boys, for to do lists, hahaha) and these lists u mentioned in your review seem to be more interesting a theme than the one kind of underdeveloped (at least IMO) in Not that kind of girl =/
    I think I will like it best and am adding it to my (huge) TBR list! *opening goodreads now*)
    By the way, the author has such a different name, and I just learned how to pronounce it by watching the TV series Ringer xD

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    1. Yeah, that's right-- SMG's character in Ringer is Siobhan. I think it's a cool name.

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  10. You know what this reminds me of? This thing called "Slam Books" that used to get passed around when I was in middle school. Basically a notebook with questions on each page you were supposed to fill out. Who's the prettiest, girl, cutest boy, most athletic, etc. Or fave song, fave movie, etc. But there were also questions like: Who is the smelliest? Or who is the worst kisser or has the worst breath? Isn't that terrible? But back then, I am ashamed to say, most everyone did it. It's one of those things I look back on now and just shake my head at. A precursor to bullying in my opinion, bullying "lite." It's good to see a subject like this being tackled in YA lit. Enjoyed your review, Jen:)

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  11. Sounds like an interesting read. I'll be sure and recommend this to a friend who teaches upper middle school. This would fit in with her classroom "library" perfectly.

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    alterlisa AT yahoo DOT com

    http://lisaslovesbooksofcourse.blogspot.com/

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  12. This sounds so interesting! It kind of reminds me of the Hate Book in Mean Girls and a couple of Veronica Mars episodes. At my high school I don't remember having anything like this. I know a lot of schools have voting for the year book class clown and most likely to succeed and things like that. Makes me want to pull mine out and see if we even had that cause I can't remember. It is definitely a really hurtful thing to do. I love that this book follows all eight girls reactions to the list both the four voted most pretty and the four voted most ugly.

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