It’s a longstanding tradition at Mount Washington High School—on the last Monday in September “The List” is posted all over school. It names the prettiest girl, and the ugliest girl, from each grade. Who writes The List? No one seems to know. It’s apparently an honor secretly passed down from one student to another, and it’s gone on for as long as anyone can remember. To add a touch of legitimacy, each copy of The List is emblazoned with a line drawing of Mount Washington High, from an embossing stamp stolen decades ago from the principal’s desk.

When beautiful Candace is named “ugliest” in the sophomore class, with an annotation that “beauty isn’t just skin-deep,” she is devastated and wonders what could have gone wrong. When lovely Bridget is named “prettiest” in the junior class, along with a note about “what a difference a summer can make,” she resolves to continue her zealous diet and maintain the thin physique she managed to starve herself into over the summer. The stories go on, in alternating chapters that reveal the humiliations and triumphs of each of the eight girls on The List.

Siobhan Vivian’s latest novel for young adults tackles the beauty myth head on. Readers will find themselves relating to each character’s struggles—and The List does bring challenges to all who appear on it, “pretty” and “ugly” alike. Labels can be damaging, even when they may appear to be positive.

Half cautionary tale and half whodunit, The List will keep readers turning pages in the hopes of finding out who is behind The List, and what will become of the girls it singles out.

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