Friday, October 05, 2012
The List, by Siobhan Vivian
Vivian points out that, surprisingly, being labeled the "prettiest" is not necessarily a good thing (and likewise being called "ugly" is not necessarily a curse). Instead, it is really the fame of being called out that is life-changing. And it is the way that society treats people who are nominated to these roles that is most telling. The story covers a broad canvas of personalities and reactions. In doing so, we get a reflection of a much bigger world -- of how young women (and many adults as well!) allow themselves to be defined by others, and what it takes for each one to overcome it.
On its face, this is well-tread territory, but Vivian breathes new life into the subject by trying to cover so much ground. At the same time, it is hard to keep track of eight different stories. At times, I wished for a simpler narrative, maybe 2-3 characters instead of eight! Still, it's hard to imagine which roles could have been cut. Each one of the eight girls has something to teach us. There's a lot of cold hard truth here and lot of raw frailty and doubt on display. It doesn't make for comfortable reading, but it will certainly make good fodder for discussion!