14 June 2012

Review: The List

The List
The List by Siobhan Vivian

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

People my age may remember "after school specials," mid-afternoon melodramas involving young people and their young people problems. I'm not convinced a single one is really memorable in a good way, and it's largely become a long-term punchline.

With this in mind, welcome to The List, which follows homecoming week at a high school where, yearly, an anonymous list is posted that lists the prettiest and ugliest girl in each class. The list comes out every year, and this book follows the aftermath of this school year's list coming out.

I can't really think of much in the way of anything good to say about this. The characters are all caricatures, from the "victims" to the beneficiaries of the list, the problems these girls face are cartoon versions of real problems, and the only adult with any significant characterization comes across as naive and hollow. That might have been the point of it, but it comes across as really frustrating in the context of everything that happens in the book.

The worst part, really, is that this book clearly arrives at a time where bullying and social injustice in schools and in middle/high school relationships are a hot-button issue. Instead of taking a magnifying glass to those ideas or satirizing it (a la Mean Girls), this book instead plays it painfully, dramatically straight, and fails miserably at coming away with anything that resembles humanity or much in the way of a learning experience. Things happen, people have Feelings about them, and then it kind of resolves. Maybe. Sort of.

Tragically bad for a book I was really looking forward to, both conceptually and otherwise. I can't really point out anything specific that this seemed to be aiming toward, but whatever it was, it did not work at all. Avoid this one.

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