Recently I read The List by Vivian Siohvan, which tells the story of eight high school girls who make the infamous Mount Washington list. An unknown entity selects the prettiest and ugliest girl from each high school grade level. Signs are posted throughout the school just before homecoming to reveal the “winning” ladies. Moreover, each winner has a tag line to explain her selection.
The ramifications are immediate. The pretty girls and the ugly girls react. The friends of these winners also react. Danielle, the athletic but freshman ugly, is called Dan the Man. Unfortunately, Danielle’s boyfriend, Andrew, doesn’t have the courage to stand up to his football friends who ridicule Danielle, and ultimately, Andrew too.
Candace, the sophomore ugliest, is angry because she knows she is pretty. Ironically, while Candace doesn’t understand her tagline about being ugly on the inside, the readers see Candace’s true colors time and time again. Some beauty is only skin deep.
As the story reveals the girl’s life after being selected for this list, each one responds differently. For the ladies on the list, friendships and family relationships are impacted for better and worse. This book left me contemplating those diverse groups within the high school culture.
The Fact Connection
A week after reading The List, I came across the book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger. Moving from the fiction genre to nonfiction, the tribe connections were rather striking. While The List showed the fictionalized individual high school students’ perspectives, Tribe explains the broader concepts of tribe based on situations and studies.
Using Native American tribes to explain the tribe culture, Junger described how groups of people live and work together. He also examined military personnel who work in units as well as his own experiences.
Drawing from both books, I reached a few conclusions. Some people understand the tribe concept and are able to adopt, and be part of, a healthy tribe. Others find themselves in the wrong tribe, which leads to self-destruction. Finally, certain people can’t find their tribe within a particular setting but do find it elsewhere.
I highly recommend Tribe for adults as well as high school readers. The List is a great read for high school readers. Reading The List first definitely impacted my mindset when I then selected Tribe. Ultimately, the outcome after reading both books was the same; everyone wants to belong to a tribe.