Each year the week before Homecoming at Mount Washington High School a list of the prettiest and ugliest girls is circulated, forever altering the lives of those singled out. Nobody knows who creates The List, which has been circulated for as long as anyone can remember.
As always The List contains eight names, the prettiest and ugliest girl in the freshman, sophomore, junior and senior class. The strength of the book is the depiction of the angst and pressure of being in high school. Among topics explored is an eating disorder by one of the students, body image and peer pressure by others.
The structure of the book is its major weakness. All eight girls on the list tell tales from their point of view. It gets more than a little confusing and I had to continually go back several chapters to figure out just whose story was being revisited. Some of the girl’s stories were flushed out fully while others were incomplete.
The lack of diversity was also disappointing. There is not one black of Hispanic face in the crowd and the one Asian male is a secondary character. It’s also hard to fathom that there are no gay students at Mount Washington. The book is set in the present so this is a gross oversight. There are a lot of missed opportunities due to the lily white cast of characters.
My biggest qualm, however, has to do with The List itself. One gets the sense at the outset that The List is a collaborative effort, possibly by a group of current or former students. Without spoiling it for anyone who hasn’t read the book we do find out who made The List by the book’s conclusion. And, it’s more than a little bit of a letdown. Worse, it’s farfetched. No single individual or group has generated The List. Someone (or some different group) compiles the list each year and it’s never the same individual (or group). That none of those who compiled the list has ever come forward to decry the practice after they’ve graduated, become adults or even parents is ludicrous. Is it possible generations of students at Mount Washington could be that shallow? After seeing how destructive The List proves for both the prettiest and ugliest girls at the school there is no way someone who created The List years earlier wouldn’t feel enough remorse to anonymously come forward to end the practice. The List has been in existence for so long that there are parents who had to have been involved in the creation of The List who now have children of their own at the school; children who appear on The List and have to live with its impact on their lives.
While exposing high school as the hell it is for many students The List has far too many flaws to overlook.
2 stars out of 5