Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Book Review: The List


Every year, on the Monday of Homecoming week, the social order at Mount Washington High is completely recast.  On that morning, the copies of the List appear by the hundreds all over the school.  It identifies the prettiest and ugliest girl in each grade.  They are the extremes; everyone else is the middle ground.  No one knhows who makes the List or how it's distributed, but everyone views its judgments as absolute.

Freshman swimmer Danielle DeMarco is tagged as ugliest.  She didn't even know the List existed before that morning.  Now everyone is calling her "Dan the Man" and her boyfriend's friends are teasing her mercilessly.

Abby Warner, on the other hand, is the prettiest freshman.  Too bad her older sister, brainiac Fern, seems so bent out of shape about it.

Sophomore Candace Kincaid assumed she had a lock on "prettiest" for this year.  So why is she listed as "ugliest" instead?  And what does the mysterious list-maker mean by saying, "Beauty isn't just skin-deep, btw"?

Lauren Finn has been home-schooled for her entire life.  So when she starts at Mount Washington in her sophomore year, she has no idea how to make friends.... until the List names her as prettiest and her classmates seem all too willing to befriend her.

Junior Sarah Singer rejected the typical standards of beauty years ago.  She isn't the slightest bit surprised that her classmates think she's ugly.  She's just suprised to find that beauty might actually matter to her friend Milo.

Bridget Honeycutt won "prettiest junior" with the explanation "what a difference a summer can make."  Too bad it was the hardest summer of her life.

Jennifer Briggis isn't the slightest big surprised to be named the ugliest senior.  After all, it's the fourth year in a row that she's been named ugliest for her class.

As for cheerleading captain Margo Gable, being named prettiest in the senior class is pretty much a guarantee that she'll also be crowned homecoming queen--just like her sister was last year.

This year, Principal Colby immediately calls the girls on the List into her office.  She tells them, "Something terrible has happened to all of you girls.  Someone took it upon himself or herself to single you out, give you a label, and present you has nothing more than the most superficial, subjective version of yourselves.  And there are emotional consequences to that, regardless of which side of the coin you are on."

The girls aren't convinced.  Maybe the ugly girls will suffer, but surely being pretty has its own rewards.

Except that Abby's grades are awful.  And Lauren's relationship with her mother is rapidly deteriorating.  And Bridget is struggling with her own personal demons.  And everyone suspects Margo of making the List herself.

But if Margo didn't make the List, then who did?  Male, female, individual, or group?  Why were these girls chosen, and can the Lists ever be stopped?  And once you're on a List, can your life ever be normal again?