Every year at Mount Washington High School, a list is put out in the week leading up to homecoming naming the prettiest and ugliest girls in each grade. No one knows, who writes the list, but the tradition has continued for years. For freshman Abby, being on the list is exciting even if her older sister, Fern, resents her for it. Danielle worries her older boyfriend won’t like her anymore. Popular girl Candace knows being named ugliest must be a cruel joke, while Lauren, who had previously been homeschooled, is overwhelmed by her newfound popularity. Bridget obsesses over her weight despite being named prettiest, while Sarah rebels against traditional ideas of beauty. Jennifer is named ugliest for the fourth year in a row, while her former best friend, Margo is named prettiest. For each girl, being named to the list has lasting consequences.
I found The List an interesting read given all the girl-on-girl meanness in today’s pop culture, from Mean Girls to Gossip Girl and all the various Real Housewives shows. The list is created by girls, not guys. It’s bad enough for boys to judge girls by their looks and call them ugly, but somehow it seems even worse seeing girls turn on each other rather than stand together to protest such misogynistic treatment. The creator of the list is revealed at the end of the book, and while this person’s identity may surprise you, I found the ending fell flat. I was hoping for more, some kind of statement about self-esteem or bullying or something a bit more meaningful than what I got. Still, The List was an interesting read that attempts to examine the way the opinions of others can damage the way girls see themselves.