The List

10866233For as long as I can remember (or just since 2012 when it was published), I have seen people fervently recommending The List by Siobhan Vivian. I finally read it!

From Goodreads:

An intense look at the rules of high school attraction — and the price that’s paid for them.

It happens every year. A list is posted, and one girl from each grade is chosen as the prettiest, and another is chosen as the ugliest. Nobody knows who makes the list. It almost doesn’t matter. The damage is done the minute it goes up.

This is the story of eight girls, freshman to senior, “pretty” and “ugly.” And it’s also the story of how we see ourselves, and how other people see us, and the tangled connection of the two.

The idea sounds amazing. It’s a great hook. And it’s not that I didn’t enjoy the read, because I really, really did, but I found I wanted… more. The characters all have fascinating dilemmas, both the “pretty” and “ugly” ones. They are layered and complex. Tragic and flawed. Unfortunately, though, by the very nature of including all eight points of view, Vivian had to pare down each perspective. For me, I never got to see enough of any one character. I never got buried beneath their skin, intimate with their bones. And that saddens me because I loved her characters. I loved the whole thing. But it wasn’t enough to explore the very concept that wanted exploring. Many of the arcs were barely resolved.

If this had been done with four, even five, POVs, then maybe we would’ve gotten down deeper into the characters. It felt as though Vivian knew her characters well, but there just wasn’t space or time to include it all. I wanted to know how the list shaped them and to see a longer-term impact than just one week.

Maybe, like my recently discovered distaste for Jane Eyre, I am alone in this viewpoint. Or maybe this is proof that, even when tons of POVs seem to serve the story, they can also diffuse the story and, with it, a lot of the oomph behind the premise.

Have you read The List? What do you think of stories with lots of POVs?


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