August 29th, 2015

Go Set a Watchman

by Harper Lee

[Twitter]

From the publisher:

Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch– “Scout”– returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns the disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town, and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in a painful yet necessary transition of the illusions of the past– a journey that can only be guided by one’s own conscience.

Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humour, and effortless precision– a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context, and new meaning to an American classic.

 

This review contains spoilers regarding Go Set a Watchman‘s plot.

HarperCollins attests that Go Set a Watchman “not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context, and new meaning to an American classic.” This, at least the latter part, may be more true than the publishing house had ever intended: Go Set a Watchman does in fact lend new meaning to Lee’s first novel, but perhaps in a different way than what anyone had ever hoped.

It is evident that Go Set a Watchman was never meant to be published, at least not as a companion to To Kill a Mockingbird: there are several instances of overlapping text, in the first few chapters especially; Go Set a Watchman is written in third person omniscient, whereas To Kill a Mockingbird is written in first; considerable discrepancies between the books’ plots will leave readers disoriented and dejected. This makes sense, if we believe that Go Set a Watchman was actually a first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird, and according to Lee’s first publisher, not a very good one.

As a novel, there is no question that it fails. Its characters are difficult to grasp; its setting and society both flat; its plot tenuous and uncompelling, a sluggish series of events propelled forward only by the context that is the sole reason for its publication. For without To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman would be of no consequence to us– it would be nothing. And it is for precisely this fierce, unflappable love for what used to be Harper Lee’s one and only American classic that we are forced to read on, resolute and flinching.

The truth is that we will never know what Lee intended for Scout Finch and her family: Go Set a Watchman is but a rough daft of their future, hopefully one Lee discarded after having written To Kill a Mockingbird and fully developed the cast of characters it brought to life. As I said, it is clear that the novel was never intended to be published– from this we may glean what we will: idealistically, that it reveals philosophies and peripeteia that she later abandoned herself, and that we were never meant to know.

Be that as it may, as I see it, Go Set a Watchman in no way tarnishes the fundamental characteristics that allowed To Kill a Mockingbird to break through to the heart of America, and there to build itself a home. The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel was, is, and shall forever remain the richly-worded rebel that so boldly challenged  prejudice and ignorance through one young girl’s voice. To Kill a Mockingbird, easily securing the love of readers of all ages, is what it always was: an outcry against the destruction of innocence, in whatever form it may come, so loud that it is still heard today.

This, this denouncement precisely, is what makes Go Set a Watchman so difficult to comprehend. For around what does its plot revolve, if not the ultimate destruction of Jean Louise Finch’s innocence? For those who thought To Kill a Mockingbird was Scout’s paramount coming of age story, prepare to be jolted. Go Set a Watchman invites readers into the bleak angst-ridden years of Jean Louise’s adolescence, to her cynical but free life in New York, to her stifling return home: “Hell was and would always be as far as she was concerned, a lake of fire exactly the size of Maycomb, Alabama.” (Lee, p.61) Harper Lee now teaches us that the destruction of innocence, although never pretty, is sometimes a necessary evil. Necessary so that the last fragment of the child that was Scout Finch may finally die, and a young woman take her place.

Unfortunately, in order for this to occur, America’s immortalized incarnation of upstanding morals, manners, and Samaritanism, Atticus Finch, so too had to shatter. And so it goes– he who “is a gentleman, in his heart he is a gentleman” (Lee, p. 113)  imploded in on himself, becoming the very antithesis of what we always believed he stood for: a segregationist, a pessimist, and a coward. As Atticus once reminded us, there should be “Equal rights for all, special privileges for none”– but it appears, as would announce George Orwell, probably with some degree of humour, that some of us were created more equal than others. Was Atticus merely acting the way he was for Scout’s benefit– putting on a show in order to lead to her maturity? Or did his actions in Go Set a Watchman ring true? Even if his intentions were based solely on his daughter’s wellbeing, does that even matter? Whatever his motive was, the outcome was the same. Whatever his motive was, we’ll never really know.

Personally, what I had the most trouble understanding was Go Set a Watchman‘s ending. It always seemed to me that Jean Louise’s censuring of her father’s actions and assertions was all well and good, but empty next to her claim that “Uncle Jack, I don’t especially want to run out and marry a Negro or something.” (Lee, p. 270) I firmly believed that this statement fundamentally detracted from Jean Louise’s credibility as an unprejudiced woman and as a desegregationist, that it undermined her argument that the Supreme Court’s decision regarding the Brown v. Board of Education case, although controversial, was inherently right. I discussed this issue at length with a friend, who fortunately provided more insight on the matter. She reminded me of something Scout had thought way back in Go Set a Watchman‘s first chapter: “Love who you will but marry your own kind was dictum amounting to instinct within her.” (Lee, p. 9) Regardless of constitutional equality, cultural differences in 1950s Alabama, as well as Jean Louise’s own mindset, ensured that any African American man would not be of her own kind.

I’m not going to provide a rating for this book. Instead I can only say, don’t read it. If you have any love for To Kill a Mockingbird at all, it’s simply not worth the betrayal. I stand by my belief that Go Set a Watchman should never have been published, and can only express profound reproach towards Lee’s attorney. This is my advice: Hold fast to everything To Kill a Mockingbird has ever signified, everything for which Scout Finch and her family have ever stood, and don’t let go. Choose to remember  ”A memory of the three of them, Atticus, Jem, and her, when things were uncomplicated and people did not lie.” (Lee, p. 241)

 

Comments are welcome.

 

I’ll keep you posted,

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[Twitter]

2 girls + 3 guys + 1 house – parents = 10 things April and her friends did that they (definitely, maybe, probably) shouldn’t have.

If given the opportunity, what sixteen-year-old wouldn’t jump at the chance to move in with a friend and live parent-free? Although maybe “opportunity” isn’t the right word, since April had to tell her dad a tiny little untruth to make it happen (see #1: “Lied to Our Parents”). But she and her housemate Vi are totally responsible and able to take care of themselves. How they ended up “Skipping School” (#3), “Throwing a Crazy Party” (#8), “Buying a Hot Tub” (#4), and, um, “Harboring a Fugitive” (#7) at all is kind of a mystery to them.

In this hilarious and bittersweet tale, Sarah Mlynowski mines the heart and mind of a girl on her own for the first time. To get through the year, April will have to juggle a love triangle, learn to do her own laundry, and accept that her carefully constructed world just might be falling apart . . . one thing-she-shouldn’t-have-done at a time.

 

I have recently discovered the ebullient brilliance of euphemisms. For example:

Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn’t Have) was not the best novel I’ve read.

For instance, it was not a coming-of-age story of a young woman facing life’s many challenges head on.

It won’t be winning any national merit awards any time soon, nor will it emerge as a classic to which to refer for years to come.

Regardless, I didn’t dislike Ten Things. Now and then everyone needs a break from required reading and a journey into the mindless world of entertainment fiction.

So it was written on the more fictitious side of contemporary fiction– I say this only because I am completely incognizant of parents who would let a sixteen-year-old move in permanently with friends, but correct me if I’m wrong– so what? It was fun. It was fluffy. It was exactly what I needed on a 9 hour road trip involving more drive-throughs than can be counted on both hands.

Many people are upset about this novel’s message about sex. Let me assure you: Ten Things is not anti-sex. Its ending was not archaic, unprogressive, or pro-abstinence. Its ending was just that– an ending. A twist. A dramatic turn of events not meant to be taken exorbitantly seriously. So I suggest we all take a step back, stop interpreting it as divine retribution, and take a moment to appreciate Mlynowski’s altogether modern point of view.

Mlynowski’s characters are realistic, although mediocre. Every reader’s inner wild child is secretly delighted by April’s reckless and rebellious tomfoolery, and many situations she encounters solicit at least muffled chuckling, if not uproarious laughter. She is not the most likeable character, or the most enlightened, but she gets the job done.

That being said, as mentioned previously, the novel’s plot borders the realm of fantasy. In no way could it ever occur in reality, and in no way is it representative of typical adolescent life. Do not expect to be able to relate to the majority of the challenges April faces, and do not expect to be astounded by Mlynowski’s interpretation of what it means to be a teenager. 10 Things revolves around actions without consequences and very little regret. Accordingly, character development is in short supply.

All things considered, there is one thing I did (and probably shouldn’t have) : read this book. Oh, well. Time one enjoys wasting is not wasted, n’est-ce pas? Recommended for all those seeking academic ataraxia, compelling chapter titles, and a disillusioned reality. 2.3/5 stars.

 

I’ll keep you posted,

 

November 24th, 2014

We Were Liars

by E. Lockhart

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[Twitter]

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

 

The Sinclairs have it all: old money, social standing, and a kingdom of dimpled children whose blond heads have never known the sufferings of the real world. But with great financial power come great responsibility, and this family’s epic would not be complete without tight-lipped family politics, carefully kept secrets, and scandal upon scandal covered up with untruth upon untruth.

I admire the audacity obvious in Lockhart’s portrayal of her characters. As she told me previously (my interview with her and Sarah Mlynowski is to come), she chose to write them riddled with as many flaws as any real human being, and there’s something courageous in that. It takes guts—especially in a teenage novel—to write such an imperfect love interest, such an unlikable romantic lead, and yet still manage to convey the absolute strength of first love.

The realism with which E. Lockhart painted her characters and the relationships between them was paralleled only by the distortion wrought by their lies.  As you may have guessed, the novel’s title was aptly chosen. That being said, I found the narrator’s unreliability deliciously appealing. The uncertainty associated with not knowing whether or not I was being lied to by a novel’s main character—the only character a reader can trust in the blind faith of first person narration—was unfamiliarly rocky ground for me, and I loved it. If E. Lockhart’s goal was to shake things up in the world of YA literature, she succeeded in more ways than one.

I was of course, as simultaneously curious and horrified to uncover the summer’s truth as our protagonist. And now– I know what she did last summer, and I am aghast. I think I may have cried. The novel’s twists and turns, especially towards the end, have not yet ceased to unnerve me. They were beautifully written, wonderfully executed, and staggeringly dark.

All in all: 4.7/5 stars. This book had me hooked from cover to cover, and I adored it. Do not be fooled by its summer setting– it is many things, but a beach read is not one of them. It will far exceed your expectations.

 

But then again, I could be lying.

 

I’ll keep you posted,

A few things you should know about life in Canada’s capital:

1- The rumours are true. It is freezing. I am currently curled up in a very large, very down blanket extolling the fact that it snowed today.

2- As you may have guessed, it isn’t exactly the country’s literary metropolis. (I’m not entirely sure what the country’s literary metropolis is, but Ottawa is very far from it indeed.)

3- That being said, every fall Ottawa’s Public Library organizes an annual Teen Author Fest. In other words: it makes all my of dreams come true.

This year’s affair features the likes of grand YA figures such as Laurie Halse Anderson (author of Speak as well as The Impossible Knife of Memory), Sarah Mlynowski (author of Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn’t Have)) and E. Lockhart (author of When We Were Liars).

In my barely contained excitement regarding this month’s upcoming events, it struck me that I forgot to post the photos of last year’s confabulation with the one and only Lemony Snicket, author of A Series of Unfortunate Events.

So without further ado, here they are:

 

Photo #1

(In which we chat about his books, how much I loved them as a kid, and also about how I am the only person in attendance aged over 12)

 

Photo #2

(In which Lemony Snicket is as eccentric as his author bios claim him to be, and I smile and nod like that’s completely normal)

 

Photo #3

(In which Lemony Snicket makes obnoxious jokes and I laugh anyway because, obnoxious or not, he’s actually really funny)

 

So there you have it. More photos are to come! Stay tuned.

 

I’ll keep you posted,

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[Twitter]

James Patterson returns to the genre that made him famous with a thrilling teen detective series about the mysterious and magnificently wealthy Angel family… and the dark secrets they’re keeping from one another.

On the night Malcolm and Maud Angel are murdered, Tandy Angel knows just three things: She was the last person to see her parents alive. The police have no suspects besides Tandy and her three siblings. She can’t trust anyone -— maybe not even herself.

Having grown up under Malcolm and Maud’s intense perfectionist demands, no child comes away undamaged. Tandy decides that she will have to clear the family name, but digging deeper into her powerful parents’ affairs is a dangerous — and revealing — game. Who knows what the Angels are truly capable of?

 

First confession: I had never read James Patterson before this past weekend. And as far as first tastes of any author go, Confessions of a Murder Suspect wasn’t half bad. It’s obvious why James Patterson is so well known within the genre of murder mystery: to put things simply, he’s good at it.

Second confession: he’s good at it, but not unimpeachable. Patterson lacked a few key elements necessary to transform this novel into something memorable– namely, a satisfactory ending. Confessions of a Murder Suspect was all build-up, no finale.  Needless to say the anticlimax did not suit my tastes.

Neither, for that matter, did the style in which it was written. Confessions of a Murder Suspect as a whole is addressed to the reader, and in fact its narrator, Tandy Angel, addresses the reader directly on multiple occasions. Although I understand why Patterson attempts to write in this fashion– the title is, after all, Confessions of a Murder Suspect– I second the opinion of many when I assert that the overall result was indubitably fake and over-the-top.

That being said, over-the-top is the Angel family’s specialty. Each of its members is an unparalleled athlete, a prodigy, or a genius. Each of its members has skeletons buried deep inside their closets and secrets they themselves have yet to acknowledge. And each of its (remaining) members could indeed be guilty of the murder of Maud and Malcolm Angel: the two parents who started it all.

Tandy Angel has tasked herself with identifying the murderer, even if it turns out to be one of her siblings, and even if it turns out to be herself.

Third confession: I read Confessions of a Murder Suspect within a day. I couldn’t help myself; for the life of me, I couldn’t drag myself away. I had to keep turning pages. This novel is many things, but slow-paced is not one of them. It may be less than realistic, but it is highly addictive.

I keep wishing that Patterson had chosen to write this book as a standalone, as opposed to the beginning of a series. The concept was decent and the mystery was intriguing, but frankly I doubt that I’ll bother the pick up the sequel. For that reason, it would have been nice to have  some of its loose ends tied up.

Final confession: 2.9/5 stars. Recommended to those who enjoy fast-paced cop shows, vapid entertainment, and dysfunctional family scandals.

 

I’ll keep you posted,

October 16th, 2014

Interview with Daria Snadowsky

[Twitter]

A huge thanks goes to Daria Snadowsky for taking the time to let me conduct this interview over email!

See my reviews of Anatomy of a Single Girl and Anatomy of a Boyfriend here.

 

Q: What inspired the series? Why write the books with such forthrightness and honesty?

A: Thank you! I’m asked this question a lot, so here’s my standard reply:

I remember my first hall meeting during freshman year of college–we were introducing ourselves and discovering that nearly half of us had boyfriends from high school. Then by the following semester, almost everyone had dumped or been dumped by her high school sweetheart. So I wanted to focus on that part of a girl’s life when she’s simultaneously excited for and scared of how college will change things. In the book, Dominique, the protagonist, says, “I used to think of college acceptance letters as emancipation proclamations. Now they’re like divorce papers.”

It was important to me to write a straightforward, nonjudgmental treatment of the emotional roller coaster of love. I resent that all of the words associated with romantic love are so pejorative. We’re often called “nuts,” “obsessed,” “head over heels,” “infatuated,” and “addicted”. Why is love saddled with such negative words considering that any one of us, no matter how brainy, sane, or logical, can feel this way? The Anatomy books concern a girl whose intelligence is above average but still longs uncontrollably for her crush. Her behaviors may seem crazy, but in truth what she’s experiencing couldn’t be more natural and human.

Q: The many breakups in the books were absolutely refreshing. But why not allow your protagonist to ride off into the sunset with her prince charming?

A: My aim was realism. Although I know people who ended up deliriously happy with their high school sweethearts, I know many more who did not.  And by and large that’s a good thing.  Breakups are excruciating and humbling, but they can also be empowering.  Rejection forces us to face and overcome our deepest fears and insecurities, and it gives us a greater capacity for compassion.  To me, happily ever after doesn’t have to include a significant other…it can be about feeling fulfilled on your own.

Q: What’s your dream cast for Anatomy and Anatomy?

A: Unfortunately I’m not too familiar with young talent today, so I’d cast teen versions of the following actors:

Dom:  Emma Stone

(Source)

 

Amy:  Christina Ricci

(Source)

 

Wes: Paul Bettany

(Source)

 

Guy:  Jason Segel

(Source)

 

Calvin: Michael Cera

(Source)

 

Q: Who are your favourite YA authors?

A: Judy Blume, Judy Blume, and Judy Blume.  Did I mention Judy Blume?  Her books basically got me through adolescence, and I dedicated Anatomy of a Boyfriend to her.

Q: When you were in high school, did you know that you were going to write a book? What did you want to be?

A: Gosh, no.  I thought I’d be a journalist or a professor.  I didn’t begin writing until after college and I got laid off as a magazine editor.  I wrote the first draft of Anatomy of a Boyfriend in the year and a half between losing my job and starting law school.

Q: Can you tell us 3 random facts about yourself?

A: 1) I used to be obsessed with Anthony Hopkins.  That’s not an exaggeration.  You can read about it here.

2) I wrote my college thesis on Ang Lee just so I could have an excuse to watchSense and Sensibility over and over again.

3) Forgive me, but I enjoy movies more than books.

Q: If you could take five things with you onto a deserted island, what would they  be?

A: A sonar power generator, a smoothie maker, my computer, sunblock, and a satellite phone.

Q: What are you working on next?

A: I have nothing to report on at the moment, but you can preview the first three chapters of Anatomy of a Single Girl here.

 

I’ll keep you posted,

October 7th, 2014

Book Lover in NYC

[Twitter]

Fellow book lovers,

Never have I ever been to New York City. Nevertheless my parents had the good fortune to sojourn there for a few days earlier this month, and the thoughtfulness to do some bookish research for me.

It appears that the Big Apple’s number one bookseller remains the Strand. Born in 1927, it has only grown in size– now holding 18 miles worth of books– since then. Its charm, sincerity, and immense collection of new and used books has kept its competitors close, and its valued patrons closer.

Speaking of charm:

 

A book bag spotted at the Strand. Delightful, no?

I hope to visit it for myself someday. Is it as marvellous as they say? Leave a comment and let me know!

 

I’ll keep you posted,

September 26th, 2014

Dreams of Gods and Monsters

by Laini Taylor

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[Twitter]

By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her, if there can even be a future for the chimaera in war-ravaged Eretz.

Common enemy, common cause.

When Jael’s brutal seraph army trespasses into the human world, the unthinkable becomes essential, and Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people.

And, perhaps, for themselves. Toward a new way of living, and maybe even love.

But there are bigger threats than Jael in the offing. A vicious queen is hunting Akiva, and, in the skies of Eretz … something is happening. Massive stains are spreading like bruises from horizon to horizon; the great winged stormhunters are gathering as if summoned, ceaselessly circling, and a deep sense of wrong pervades the world.

What power can bruise the sky?

From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, chimaera and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.

At the very barriers of space and time, what do gods and monsters dream of? And does anything else matter?

 

Seldom is a series so beautiful, so moving, so exhaustively excellent, that it leaves me absolutely breathless. Seldom is a series such an incredible whirlwind of ups and downs, questions and answers, facts and uncertainties, that it leaves me at once fully satiated and famished for more. Seldom have I turned pages this quickly or stayed up this late into the wee hours of the morning because of a single book.

Seldom have I encountered an author such as Laini Taylor.

Doctor Seuss said, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

If grins could crack, mine would.

In Dreams of Gods and Monsters, Karou reestablishes herself as the kick-ass heroine with whom we all fell in love in the trilogy’s first book. She regains her confidence, rebuilds her reputation, and comes back with a vengeance. I don’t feel the particular need to discourse on the quality of the character development these transformations entail, but let it be said: these transformations entail character development of high, high quality.

The world building is, as always, top drawer. Not only is Eretz illustrated handsomely, but when seen from Taylor’s eyes, Earth too becomes a foreign planet, chapters skipping from Morocco to Washington D.C. to Rome. And the fantasy’s history is, of course, rich with legends and truths, all beautifully told and beautifully haunting.

Taylor’s writing is something remarkable in and of itself. Every sentence is a masterpiece, each word carefully chosen to carve a path straight to her readers’ hearts. Frankly I found myself underlining paragraphs in my hardcover– something I rarely allow myself to do.

It is a sad thing to love in the midst of war, and yet Taylor manages to transform this fragile hope into something shining and strong. The whole of Dreams of Gods and Monsters is in truth quite exhilarating; I became giddy and high off of the characters’ innate and omnipotent hope. They all refuse to be broken, and it’s wonderful.

I can still scarcely believe that Laini allowed her readers to be this happy. When reading series finales, expecting disappointment has become second nature for every reader; if one of your favourite characters hasn’t died, decamped, or parted ways with their soulmate  yet, it’s usually because you haven’t turned the last page. But Dreams of Gods and Monsters demurs; it will not conclude in misery. I wouldn’t say it’s a happy ending– because that wasn’t an ending, not really– but it was pretty damn close. And I am over the moon for it.

Never have I been so amazed with Laini Taylor. Everything about Dreams of Gods and Monsters, from the plot’s most crucial turns to the wording’s most minute detail, was executed to the nines. I’ve said it before in regards to her work, and I’ll say it again: 5 stars. Aces, Laini. Aces.

 

I’ll keep you posted,

 

PS: See my review of the trilogy’s second book here.

September 14th, 2014

Book Lover in Prague

[Twitter]

Fellow book lovers,

You know as well as I do that a good book transports you to another world. Whether it be to somewhere foreign, or magical, or strange, the right kind of novel is always an escape.

To my utmost pleasure, this summer I was able to visit the setting of one of my all-time favourite YA books: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. And I’m sure you’ll be happy to note that Prague is, beyond any doubt, everything it’s cracked up to be.

 

 

The Charles Bridge (site of many a formidable scene in Taylor’s novel) :

 

 

What do you think? Which bookish setting would you visit, if you could? Leave a comment and let me know!

 

I’ll keep you posted,

September 1st, 2014

The List

by Siobhan Vivian

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[Twitter]

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.

 

The List features eight girls as main characters, half of whom have been deemed the prettiest in their grades by an unknowable but all-powerful source, and half of whom have been deemed the ugliest. The girls alternate as narrators throughout the week leading up to their homecoming dance, and during this short time we come to know their darkest secrets and their deepest fears.

Some may say that opting to use eight different narrators is biting off more than any one author can chew, but not Siobhan Vivian. She’s just that kind of woman: bold, undaunted, and eschewing literary limitations and conventions like it’s nobody’s business. And I must say that she manages well. Although I did have to flip back to see who had taken the stage on numerous occasions, this didn’t bother me as much as it could have, and I appreciated every character’s distinctive point of view.

Vivian approaches several teenage issues– eating disorders, bullying, identity, and objectification being but a few prime examples– and expounds on each of them in turn in her novel. The beauty of The List lies in her ability to illustrate these issues’ gravity without weighing her book down with their consequence. To the contrary, The List remains a light, easy read throughout the unfolding of its plot’s bleakest twists. This ability, to entertain and to inform at once, is of course a rare art.

Which is why I am positively woebegone to inform you of The List‘s pitiful ending. (This is the part where you say: “What ending?”) To her readers’ utter dismay, Vivian stopped writing at the climax. Now, as she has written and published several novels since The List, I believe that we can safely assume that she did not do so due to a sudden and untimely death. And as gleeful as this makes me, I can’t say that it excuses her behaviour. Because, come on, what is so wrong with a good, old-fashioned epilogue? We’ve fallen in love with– or at least gotten to know beyond the social constraints governing the real world– eight characters here, Siobhan. Was it really too much to ask to see how they faired twelve months later? Actually, forget twelve months later; I would have been happy with twelve minutes later.. Why was that so hard?

The List holds promise. It was engaging, entertaining, and charming enough to fully capture my attention from cover to cover. Unfortunately, its ending– or lack thereof– was enough to severely diminish said entertainment. For fans of high school dramas and all too clean breaks. 3.5/5 stars.

I’ll keep you posted,

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