Release Date: April 1, 2012
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About (from Goodreads): 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 idea behind this book hooked me while attending Teen Book Con with my son. Hearing the author talk about it really intrigued me, possibly because of a past experience. I was told by one of the popular boys in my class during junior high that I was the ugliest girl he had ever seen. I was in the height of my awkward years and it was a label that came to affect me in unexpected ways. Naturally it knocked my already low self esteem but it also had some odd positive effects for me.
Many of us can relate to the way that labels define girls at this age. Even when she tries to rebel against a label others might force it on them. Often it hits right where a girl feels the most fragile and vulnerable. Even if the label is something that is desired it can take a terrible toll. This book really does an excellent job of taking a look into what kind of price is paid by being given a label, even if it is one a girl thinks she might want. Beauty is such a central concern for teens that it tends to be a place where many girls are targeted. The book touches on some pretty deep issues that face this age.
One potential downfall to the book is that, because the scope is so large, the author can not dive into any particular story/perspective too deeply. This works better for some of the girls where the issues that are raised are not as deep or complex. Some of the stories could have been expanded on, and arguably, needed that expansion. Some of the girls could have easily had their own books written around just their story line. I also felt like some of the characters were developed better and more fully and it was easier to understand them. I do feel that what we lose by this lack of focus is made up for by stepping back and seeing just how distinct and unique this kind of thing can mean to so many different types of people.
I recommend this book to all groups. Teens can relate to some of the issues in the books in a current way, adults can relate having lived through some of it. I think this book would work great in a discussion between teens and adults, especially in a group setting such as a book club. This book does not provide answers but it does ask questions that deserve to be asked. I believe this is all the author was attempting and feel she succeeded.
Due to the number of stories we are following we only get a week in these girls’ lives. It is enough to understand the effects of the list for each but not enough for clean resolutions. We are merely given a sense of where each story is headed. I think this adds to the book and would have been disappointed if things and been wrapped up too cleanly. This aspect begs for discussions about where you think each girls’ fate might lie and what paths they are likely to take. Anyone needing clean resolutions to their stories will likely be frustrated. Oddly, I usually like a lot more resolution to my books but in this case I feel like we are given the clues we need.