Cover of The List, with a white girl sitting on the floor, her back against lockers, while she holds a piece of paper with a stunned look on her face. Two girls stand, one on each side of her.

About the Book

Title: The List
Published: 2012
Swoonworthy Scale: 3

Cover Story: Acceptable Headlessness
BFF Charm: Nay (But I Do Want To Give Them All A Hug And Maybe Do Some Trust Falls)
Talky Talk: Madam Vivian Knows All!
Bonus Factors: Feminism, Mystery
Anti-Bonus Factors: Eating Disorder, Shower Strike
Relationship Status: Sister Suffragette

Cover Story: Acceptable Headlessness

Sure, a couple of these girls have been decapitated, but the cover manages to overcome my SIGH EYE ROLL with an image that specifically ties to the book! This ain’t no stock photography, you guys. Not only does the cover sum up the entire premise of the story, it also features a model who… looks like a regular person! Just like the girls in the book! BRB MY BRAIN IS EXPLODING.

The Deal:

Every year, right before Homecoming, a list is posted all over Mount Washington High. It’s a list of the prettiest girl and the ugliest girl in each class, and even though no one knows who writes it, everyone believes it. The list has the power to make or break someone; it can make you Homecoming Queen, or it can brand you as a loser reject. But the only people who truly understand the consequences of the list are the girls who are on it.

From the minute the list is posted, all eight girls feel the difference. Freshman Danielle (ugly) wonders if her boyfriend will stick with her, while Abby (pretty) hopes her beauty can hold a candle to her sister Fern’s brains. Sophomore Candace (ugly) can’t believe she landed on the list just for being bitchy and resents Lauren (pretty) the sheltered home schooler who is way too nice for her own good. Junior Bridget (pretty) feels empowered in her eating disorder, and Sarah (ugly) decides to show everyone just how much she hates them. Senior Margo (pretty) watches all of her dreams fall into place, until her ex-best-friend, Jennifer (ugly), zooms up the social ladder and threatens to ruin everything. Each girl must navigate a different maze of consequences, but whether they’re pretty or ugly, they all come to the same realization: the list is a curse.

BFF Charm: Nay (But I Do Want To Give Them All A Hug And Maybe Do Some Trust Falls)

BFF Charm that says "denied"

Look, it’s not that I don’t like these girls. Well, ok, I like some of them. And a few even have some bestie potential, particularly Danielle. But I’ve seen these girls insides; I’ve seen their raw insecurities and their desperate fears and their self-obsession and their bitter resentment, and the overwhelming authenticity of their flaws makes me want to cry. (It also makes me feel incredibly relieved that I survived high school in one piece.) Honestly, I don’t have the energy to be the friend that all of these girls need, but I would be more than happy to make like Tina Fey and teach them to express themselves and quit with the girl-on-girl crime. We could do some trust falls, have some honest dialogue, and then I’d hug each one of them before they leave. And tell them all that they’re beautiful.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

While this book is a little bit about how boys make girls feel, it’s mostly about how girls make other girls feel. There are a few sweetly romantic moments, but most of the male characters in the story are minor. And while I love me some swoon, I’m totally glad that Vivian didn’t let boys steal her feminist thunder.

I do, however, want to give special pants to Milo, who seems like the most decent person in the entire book.

Talky Talk: Madam Vivian Knows All!

Vivian guides us through the tangled lives of all eight girls with omniscient narration, allowing us full access to their emotions and motivations. It’s a style that took a bit of adjustment for me, especially in the beginning, when I wondered if I would be able to keep all of the characters straight. I found myself missing that personal connection you feel when you stick with one hero or heroine, but by spreading out the narrative focus, Vivian successfully manages to flesh out each storyline into a compelling read.

Bonus Factor: Feminism

Raised fists in different skin tones wearing nail polish

I firmly believe that this book should be required reading in every high school in America. It basically steps right up to the beauty myth, looks it straight in the eye, and then smacks it across the face. This book doesn’t pull any punches, and while it’s tragic to see the characters crippled by their self-image, the frankness of their story is also incredibly empowering.

Bonus Factor: Mystery

Nancy Drew creeping up an old stone staircase with her flashlight

This isn’t technically a mystery, but as I turned each page, I was DYING to know who wrote the list. Because I wanted to facepunch them. Hard.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Eating Disorder

I have a really hard time reading about eating disorders. Being inside a character’s head who is starving herself just… it makes me almost physically ill. With that said, Vivian did a convincing job of exploring how and why someone would develop an eating disorder. And thankfully, I had other characters to focus on any time I started to feel sick.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Shower Strike

This is not at all serious (like the first anti-bonus factor) but for reasons I will let the book explain, one of the “ugly” girls, Sarah, decides not to bathe. Or change her clothes. Or brush her teeth. And it is GROSSTOWN, USA. Vivian is just too good at describing how foul it would feel not to be able to change your underwear or wash your hair. In fact, I think I’m going to go take a shower RIGHT NOW.

Relationship Status: Sister Suffragette

Just like with Vivian’s previous novel, Not That Kind of Girl, I would be proud to stand alongside this book as we fight against photoshopped magazines and underweight models and poisonous marketing. This book inspires me, and I can only hope that its message reaches the hearts of girls who haven’t yet learned how to love themselves and their bodies. At times, the book can go a little overboard with its agenda, but that’s only because it’s so passionate about promoting a positive self-image for women. While our relationship will never be as close as the one I share with Not That Kind of Girl, I will always be a zealous supporter of this book, and I really do hope it achieves its ambitious goals. Thanks for fighting the good fight, Sister Suffragette!

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a review copy from the author. I received neither money nor cocktails for this review (dammit!). 

Sarah lives in Austin, and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.