Date Published: April 1st, 2012
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
I really wanted to love this book. When I started reading it, I had really high hopes that it would put an interesting take on high school, and how the labels that kids give themselves and each other affect their lives. And while it did do that, it fell flat in its delivery for me.
The book follows the points of view of eight different girls at their high school, Mount Washington High, after the posting of the annual tradition: a list that names the prettiest and ugliest girls in each grade. It’s always embossed with an official seal, and no one knows who makes it or who passes on the responsibility of making it every year. We follow each girl from their discovery of their name on the list, and to how that changes their lives. Part of the issue I had with the book was the multiple story lines. I don’t mind alternating chapters with different points of view, most of the time, but this isn’t a very long book and the chapters aren’t super long either. So it was a little confusing switching from character to character and trying to remember who was who, and what grade they were in, and why did they not like that person again? Then by the time I got into the groove of that character again, we’d be switching to a new one.
The book delves into some pretty serious topics, and I was actually really glad to see that. It’s hard to find books that seriously try to address topics that are somewhat difficult to talk about. The main one that stood out for me was Bridget’s eating disorder and how being on the list worsened her problem. It also addressed how that affected her younger sister who always idolized her and I think that’s a really important issue. The problem is, nothing got resolved. We didn’t see any decision on Bridget’s part on what she was going to do. We didn’t see her get help for her problem. And that was kind of upsetting. I felt like it would have been a great place to set an idea of what would be a good path to follow, at least give kids some realistic solutions for someone who was going through these problems. But Bridget is even more messed up at the end of the book than the beginning, and we don’t see much hope for her recovery. And that was disappointing for me.
Some of the characters had really great character growth, and others just.. . .didn’t. And honestly, I wasn’t too attached to any of the characters in particular, just because there were so many points of view. There is a small twist to the story at the end, but it wasn’t particularly surprising for me, and again that doesn’t get resolved either.
I feel like i’m listing a lot of negative things and that’s not what I’m trying to do. I did enjoy reading it. It’s a well-written book and it tries to address some super important topics. And the fact that those are even in here was great to see. I just hoped for more closure at the end of the story. Maybe that’s the way the author meant for it to be. That all of these problems can’t be fixed easily, and that life is complicated and can’t be sewn up neatly. And I understand that goal, but it made a somewhat frustrating ending for me. This book definitely earned 3 solid stars, and I would try some other books by this author.