by Siobhan Vivian2 out of 5
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.
Mount Washington High have a tradition; a list that names the prettiest and ugliest girls. Follow the benefits and harsh reality of being on the list.
I got a free ecopy from NetGalley, and it's hovering between a 2 to 3 stars for me.
This sounded like a very interesting premise, and I was curious where the author would take it. Would it have a hint of "Mean Girls", where the whole female population hits boiling point? Would it be like "DUFF", where the ugly girls get their moment? Would it be a who-dunnit, trying to find the culprit behind the list and why they are attacking these poor girls?
It's more like "Educating Yorkshire" (which I enjoyed watching, by the way, and would recommend). It is simply someone documenting eight rather average girls, as they deal with the focus that inevitably comes from being on the list.
Each chapter jumps to a different girl. None of the girls really stand out, or do anything that feels original or exciting. Sure, four are pretty and four are ugly, but that's just superficial. For the most part, they just exist, and muse about their friends, and boys, and what dress to wear at the end of the week... this book covers the single week before Homecoming - it is a very long week.
I found most of the book rather dull, and it was only in the last 20% that I kinda wanted to keep reading, just to find out what happens.
The first 80% - a girl doesn't shower; a girl lapses into anorexia; a girl makes new friends; a girl feels let-down by her boyfriend.
It could have been interesting, but (with perhaps the exception of Sarah) I didn't feel that the narrators were different enough: I couldn't distinguish between them, and it all just became a teen-girl blur.
Despite the Principal's promises, and the girl's initial pow-wow; nobody seems to care about proving who actually wrote the list. They only care about proving they didn't write it, and making sure the school population doesn't think they can do it.
You do eventually find out who did the list previously, and who did it this year; but it is a very half-arsed "she did it" before more dresses and friend stuff.
I didn't feel that there was any climax, or any resolution. Yes, this is a Contemporary YA, and is keeping it very realistic and avoiding any moments more suited to a big drama; but surely it has to provide something else? There was no excitement; no humour; no emotion. I didn't care any more for these girls at the end, than I did at the beginning.
OK, I admit I had a mild interest in Candace's progress through the book; and because of the whole Homecoming Queen race, there is a vague resolution between Jennifer and Margo. Which would have worked if they were our central characters, but they shared the spotlight equally with the other girls who, at the end of the book their story-lines are just dropped in the dust.
Sure, this is realism, life goes on and not everyone gets answers, or what they deserve. But what about me as a reader? Why did I read this? What did I get out of the deal?