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Today Will Be Different: Book Review

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple published in 2016.

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“Eleanor Flood is a mess. She’s erratic, scattered, and constantly getting things wrong (dates, names, and times). She resorts to calling everything “amazing” because the right word always seems to be just out of reach. But all that’s about to change, because today, she vows, will be different. Today she will be her best self. She sets the bar at a comfortable low: She will put some effort into her appearance. She will play a board game with her eight-year-old son, Timby. She will initiate sex with her hand-surgeon-to-the-stars husband, Joe. But then life happens, and Eleanor’s modest plan gets derailed.”

Exams are done which only means one thing—my summer binge reading has begun.

My first post-exam read centred around Eleanor Flood’s daily life as a mother, wife and successful television animator. Yet she has an unrelenting inner dialogue hounding her with doubts and insecurities, and she wakes up with a promise to herself every morning: Today will be different. More specifically, today will be better than yesterday. Although as the reader follows her through a seemingly normal day, we learn that it’s easier said than done. A portion of the book is also dedicated to Eleanor’s past, specifically her younger sister Ivy. It’s quickly learned that many of her shortcomings stem from her issues with Ivy, and boy do we see these shortcomings throughout her day. Her day became particularly uneasy when she found out that her husband has been lying to her about going to work when he told his receptionist that he was on “vacation.” This sends her into a wild frenzy that leaves strangers shaking their head in pity. Eleanor is the type of character that nobody wishes to emulate, yet inevitably end up relating to most of her thoughts and feelings.

Despite the title, I didn’t think that the majority of this book was going to take place within a single day. In fact, the only portion of this novel that doesn’t focus on this nightmare of a day is when she reminisces back to when she broke off contact with her sister. It’s interesting, yet it didn’t feel like it was just one day, it felt more like a week. I don’t know if it was purposely written like that, perhaps in a way to convey that this hellish day felt exceptionally long to the character herself. There was also a change of POV while she was thinking back about her sister, from the first person to the third person. Again, I can assume this might be due to the fact that it is a memory and supposed to be distinctly separate from the rest of the story. Whatever the reasons for it, it threw me off.

Speaking of the other characters, Joe and Ivy did not wow me. First discussing Joe; the supposedly level-headed doctor husband who was the centre of confusion and anxiety for our main character this whole novel. Both Eleanor and the reader spend precious neurons brainstorming possible wondering reasons for his deceit (spoiler alert: He isn’t cheating). The writer even bestowed him with his own small segment that was from his point of view (and by small, I mean 14 pages). This explained what happened to him that prompted the strange behaviour of lying and sneaking around, which, I will admit, was quite the plot twist. Other than this, I wasn’t that connected to Joe.

That being said, I absolutely preferred him to Ivy. Ivy was not only unlikeable but dry, one-dimensional and a hollow excuse for supporting character. Her only role in this novel was to justify Eleanor’s tragic past and legitimize her unstable behaviour, even though her mother’s early death and father’s alcoholism would have been a sufficient reason for Eleanor’s breakdown. To put it simply: Ivy was an unnecessary and annoying character.

On a more positive note, I did appreciate the subtle clues about her past that was sprinkled among early scenes. Before we even knew who Ivy was, Semple was dropping references to the mysterious baby sister, such as Eleanor’s distaste towards New Orleans and her reasoning for stealing a young mother’s keys that were decorated with a keychain labelled with the name “Delphine”. These were obviously confusing at the moment, yet the satisfaction of connecting the dots later in the story made it worthwhile. The moment when eyes widen and an audible “Ohhh” slips out is an unbeatable feeling while reading, so I was very thankful for that.

Another aspect I enjoyed was the correlation between the beginning and the end. It opened up with a passage of Eleanor’s promise to herself for the day. As I explained, her day did not go according to her plan, so the novel finished off with another promise to herself for the next day, slightly varied from the current days pledge. For some, this may be a hopeful sign that displays Eleanor’s perseverance despite a day that did not go the way she planned. Yet for me, it was quite the opposite, since she was back to square one. It shows the never-ending cycle of planning to be a better person but ultimately failing and trying again and again and again. Even though we only experienced one day in the shoes of Eleanor Flood, we all know how the rest of her days are going to be. I love this because even though the ending was open to interpretation, the readers had a bit of certainty about the future of the main character.

Overall, there were both good and bad features of Today Will Be Different, which ultimately cancelled each other out to make up an incredibly neutral book. This isn’t a book I’d recommend to anyone in particular, yet if I saw someone pick it off the shelf I wouldn’t run to swat it out of their hand.

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April’s Poem of the Month

I’ve wanted to add another element to this blog outside the realm of book reviews for a long time. My love for writing expands outside fictional novels, and poetry specifically holds a special place in my heart; it only makes sense that I start to share some of my favourites with everyone!

So once a month, I will post a poem that inspires me and leaves me breathless, as well as a short personal commentary explaining why I thought the poem was worth sharing. They will most likely vary in length, but I can guarantee they’ll be consistent in quality. So without further ado, I present April’s poem of the month.

I’ve had this poem saved for so long, and whenever I come back to read it I fall in love all over again. It always leaves me with a warm feeling of hope and a strong sense of will to keep going. I also love how meta it is since the author takes an introspective look at the stereotypical poet and mercilessly dissects it. It’s beautifully written as if a friend sitting next to you giving some wise advice. I think everyone struggling with problems of self-worth or hopelessness should read this.

Save Yourself by Lana Rafaela 

“let me tell you something:

no one is going to look at you, broken and shattered 
and think –
damn, you are beautiful.

no one is going to come pick up your broken pieces off the floor and
assemble them into a beautiful whole.

hell,
you won’t even look at yourself and think – 
I made broken look beautiful.

you know why?

because all those writers lied to you.

yes,
all those with their poems of scraped knuckles and 
blood dripping down chins,
pomegranate songs and loves that ripped through you like
hurricanes.

liars.

so you and i,
we are going to make a plan.

you are not going to romanticize days when your brain tells you to smash that mirror,
you are not going to romanticize the lover who doesn’t understand you 
but still writes about you.

here is what you are going to romanticize instead:

you are going to romanticize the first day of spring,
its gentle hands all over your body,
lifting you up until you are as light as a feather.

you are going to romanticize the tea and honey kind of love,
no hurricanes,
but sunshine that builds you up from within, 
that helps you make it through the worst days.

you are going to romanticize gentle hands of a friend
in yours,
telling you that it is going to be okay.

because it is.

and don’t trust poets,
we’re no good,
we love pretending that our jagged edges tantamount to a beautiful disaster, but in reality- 
there ain’t nothing beautiful about shaky hands holding a cigarette and
empty eyes staring at the cracks in the walls.

you know what is beautiful, instead?

the days when you can look at yourself in the mirror and smile,
scars and all.

music that makes your soul flow like a river,
books that offer comfort,
families flocking together like overgrown birds to keep you safe and warm,
friends that give you strength when you can find none,
lovers who make you laugh through tears.

baby, 
from now on
you are going to romanticize healing;

honey dripping down your fingertips,
August nights that stick to your skin,
the day you find your purpose,
long car rides and singing so loud that no one can shut you up now.

bad news:
no one is coming to save you.

good news:
you can save yourself.”

If you want to read more of Lana Rafaela’s writing, you can visit her Tumblr or website.

Perfect Days: Book Review

Perfect Days by Raphael Montes [translated by Alison Entrekin] published in 2016.

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“Teo Avelar is a loner. He lives with his paraplegic mother and her dog in Rio de Janeiro, he doesn’t have many friends, and the only time he feels honest human emotion is in the presence of his medical school cadaver—that is, until he meets Clarice. She’s almost his exact opposite: exotic, spontaneous, unafraid to speak her mind. An aspiring screenwriter, she’s working on a screenplay called Perfect Days about three friends who go on a road trip across Brazil in search of romance. Teo is obsessed. He begins to stalk her, first following her to her university, then to her home, and when she ultimately rejects him, he kidnaps her and they embark upon their very own twisted odyssey across Brazil, tracing the same route outlined in her screenplay. Through it all, Teo is certain that time is all he needs to prove to Clarice that they are made for each other, that time is all he needs to make her fall in love with him. But as the journey progresses, he digs himself deeper and deeper into a pit that he can’t get out of, stopping at nothing to ensure that no one gets in the way of their life together.”

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I like to believe that I have a strong stomach when it comes to consuming horror and thriller fiction, but I found myself incredibly uncomfortable while reading this.

Teo is a young medical student living in Rio De Janeiro, ranging from awkward young fellow to literal sociopath. He very quickly falls head over heels for Clarice, an eccentric, free-spirited art student who does not share Teo’s feelings. After making it clear that she is not interested, he knocks her out and kidnaps her along a “romantic” trip to Teresópolis and then Ilha Grande, on a mission to persuade her to love him back. This involves consistently drugging, handcuffing, gagging and even stuffing her in a suitcase. Along their journey, Clarice unsuccessfully attempts to fight back while Teo commits his first murder; Clarice’s ex-boyfriend. Throughout the entire story, Teo is unshakably delusional, convinced that he’s doing nothing wrong, in fact, he believes everything he’s doing is for her own good. It’s only a matter of time before she learns to love him, according to Teo. It’s a rollercoaster of heart-skipping moments and chilling commentaries that had the hair on the back of my neck standing up. 

Let’s start with the beginning and how much I loved the beginning. The first line speaks of the only person Teo supposedly likes, Gertrude. He speaks very highly of her, and we get the impression that she’s the only person that understands Teo. Very shortly after, the reader finds out that Gertrude is, in fact, a corpse. Actually, a cadaver that he is working on in one of his classes. This immediately sets up Teo’s menacing demeanour. This sociopathic behaviour is backed up by a lack of empathy and care for others, including his mother. In fact, he says the only reason he sticks around his mother is for money and food. Even his relationship with Clarice is not love, it’s an insane obsession. Little details of his instability are sprinkled throughout the novel, such as crushing a butterfly after suffocating it underneath a shot glass and dismembering Clarice’s ex-boyfriend only to throw the body in the river. Okay, that last one may be less of a small hint of instability and more a direct piece of evidence for a diagnosis of sociopathy.  

There are so many other subtable nuances that add to the personality of this book, one of my favourite’s being Teo’s nickname for Clarice. He began calling her “my little rat”, supposedly for her rat-like teeth. Now I don’t know if I’m over analyzing things here, but I think it’s a bit deeper than just teeth. Since Teo is a medical student, it’s not uncommon that he might conduct experiments with animals, most particularly rats. To him, Clarice is simply a rat to experiment with, to play with and to receive enlightenment from. Again, maybe I’m overthinking this miniscule part of the story, but to me, it just stood out as symbolically important.

I mentioned above how much I loved the beginning, and I wish I could say the same thing for the ending. It’s been said before that a happy ending is no ending at all (in fact this was a line in the last book I reviewed, The Burning Girl). In this case, I disagree. Teo is so incredibly unlikable and does the most horrid things to Clarice, an innocent girl that honestly could have been anyone in the wrong place at the wrong time. I, as well as probably many other readers, was rooting for Clarice to break free of his captive and perhaps even get some revenge. Yet the ending was a happy ending for Teo, where he ultimately gets what he wants. As cheesy as it sounds, I wanted justice. I wanted Clarice to have the opportunity to spit on Teo as he was taken away to rot in prison. But that didn’t happen, which disappointed me a lot.

Perfect Days is beyond terrifying and that fact that Raphael Montes has the capability to come up with this kind of stuff is frankly alarming, but also impressive. I finished this book with a bitter taste in my mouth in all the best ways. This is the definition of a page-turner. I would definitely recommend this book, although if you have a weak stomach or are triggered easily, you may want to approach this with care.

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The Burning Girl: Book Review

The Burning Girl by Claire Messud published in 2017.

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“Julia and Cassie have been friends since nursery school. They have shared everything, including their desire to escape the stifling limitations of their birthplace, the quiet town of Royston, Massachusetts. But as the two girls enter adolescence, their paths diverge and Cassie sets out on a journey that will put her life in danger and shatter her oldest friendship.”

I think the vast majority of young girls, myself included, have experienced a relationship similar to Julia and Cassie’s. It’s a horrid, unavoidable part of growing up. 

I found myself relating a bit too much to the main character, Julia. It begins with her looking back at a close friendship with Cassie Burnes, the girl with the fluorescent blonde hair and stick like figure. The girls seem to be the definition of opposites attract; Cassie is crass and adventurous, while Julia is careful and anxious. Slowly, as they entered middle school, they began to drift apart. Cassie became apart of the party crowd while Julia veered more towards an academic lifestyle. Julia was desperately trying to hold on to their childhood friendship, but Cassie seemed ready to move on. The factor of family issues is also heavy on Cassie’s side, a possible explanation for abandoning her friendship with Julia.

I may be biased, but I really enjoyed this book because of how much I related to Julia. I found myself continuing to read only to see if our emotions would continue to match up. In every broken friendship, there is usually one friend that does the distancing and one friend that is left lonely and confused by it all. Both me and Julia were the latter friend. Desperately trying to hold on to whatever little bond you have left, and even after it all still subtly keeping tabs on the person that left you behind. In fact. this is basically how the entire story is presented; the telling of Cassie’s story through the distant eye of Julia.

This connection I had with Julia may have been the only thing I liked about the book. The rest of the characters were somewhat flat, only placed in the story to advance the plot. Take Peter, for example, the childhood crush of Julia that ended up falling in love with Cassie. Since Cassie was no longer speaking to Julia, she vented all her issues on to Peter, who then went on to tell Julia (unbeknown to Cassie I’m guessing). This is literally the only way Julia knew about anything happening in Cassie’s life, through a game of telephone played by Cassie to Peter to Julia. He could have been completely removed from the story and replaced by another random messager between Julia and Cassie and I wouldn’t have cared.

I also found the ending interesting. It circled back quite nicely to the beginning since the whole book is just Julia reminiscing about her time with Cassie. The first few lines of the novel are as follow:

“You’d think it wouldn’t bother me now. The Burneses moved away long ago. Two years have passed.”

Meanwhile, the end of the book focuses on Cassie recently moving away, so essentially, the beginning of the book is later than the end of the book.

Most of the time, I wouldn’t like it if a novel ended with many unanswered questions, but in this case, I don’t mind it. These frustrating questions stay true to real life, because when you drift away from a person these questions aren’t answered, and they aren’t answered for Julia either. Is Cassie okay? Where did they end up moving? Did she discover the truth with her father? Does her relationship with her mother continue to dissolve or strengthen due to her vulnerability? We as readers will never know, but neither will Julia. Yet the last paragraph consists of Julia doing the same thing a reader might do, coming up with viable answers to her questions. Again, this character is proving to be the most relatable person ever.

The only word I can think of to sum up this story is tragic. The death of a friendship is a heartbreakingly cruel part of life, and The Burning Girl demonstrates it rather eloquently. I would recommend every young woman to read this so they can either reflect on the friendships they lost, or cherish the friends they’ve kept.

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Home Fire: Book Review

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie published in 2017.

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“Isma is free. After years of watching out for her younger siblings in the wake of their mother’s death, she’s accepted an invitation from a mentor in America that allows her to resume a dream long deferred. But she can’t stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London, or their brother, Parvaiz, who’s disappeared in pursuit of his own dream, to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew. When he resurfaces half a globe away, Isma’s worst fears are confirmed. Then Eamonn enters the sisters’ lives. Son of a powerful political figure, he has his own birthright to live up to—or defy.”

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I’m not going to lie—the reason I picked up this book in the first place is because the cover looks really cool. So I guess I literally judged a book by its cover. 

I was so torn and almost borderline confused while I was reading this. There were some parts that were so eloquently written, yet I had to force myself to get through some other parts. In Home Fire, the perspective is split into five parts; Isma, Aneeka and Parviaz Pasha, as well as Karamat and Eamonn Lone. The first three characters are siblings and the last two are father and son, the father in this relationship being new home secretary of Great Britain. His son, Eamonn, ends up falling in love with Aneeka, the twin sister to Parviaz and daughter of Adil, two British-Pakistani men turned radical terrorists. Here Eamonn is torn between his budding infatuation with Aneeka and his valued trust with his father. After Parviaz is killed while trying to come back to Britain, the tensions grow between the Pasha and Lone families, especially considering Eamonn has decided to side with Aneeka and her fight to bring her brothers body back home. There’s more to the plot of this book, but I couldn’t possibly explain it all without getting a migraine.

The main thing that bothered me about this book was the characters. I found the majority of the characters very unlikeable; in fact, the only characters that were actually half decent were Isma and Parviaz. Yet these characters were either not heavily featured or killed off, respectively. Aneeka was whiny and annoying, leading all her actions by her heart, not her head. This normally would be endearing, but her manipulative personality left much to be desired. Eamonn is a weak-willed young man ran by his genitals, so when the beautiful Aneeka shows the slightest of interest in him, all his morals are out the window. He possesses an almost obsessive desire over the nineteen-year-old girl, and even when he finds out that she only used him to get to his father in hopes of helping her estranged brother, he chooses to stay with her. Finally, his father Karamat Lone is quite the opposite of his son, yet this still doesn’t allow me to like him. His character is cold-hearted and stoic towards his family and his old faith. It is mentioned that he must maintain these qualities in order to survive in the political world, he does not really show any redeeming qualities in his private life. The toxic relationship of Aneeka and Eamonn overshadows how much I dislike Karamat though, so he gets a break here.

I don’t mean to focus on the negative. There were parts of this book that I found very interesting and enjoyed quite a bit. I loved following Parvaiz during his part, as the reader witnessed him being recruited for this terrorist group, adjusting to his new life in Raqqa, and slowly realizing that he regretted his decision while trying to escape back to Britain. His emotions of desperately wanting to connect to the father he never knew, which lead to disgust in what he had signed up for was brilliantly described. This portrayed the tragic endeavours of many young boys that are brainwashed into joining terrorist groups, and it was refreshing to represent the supposed “enemy” as the victim of a vicious system. I also found Aneeka’s part interesting, not for its content but how it was formatted. Instead of normally narrated chapters, the reader experienced her point of view in the form of hashtags, online articles and tweets about her current situation. This was a fascinating choice of style for her part, and it created some much-needed variety halfway through the novel.

This review is going to be slightly shorter than my others, mainly because I can’t think of much to say about this book. I really didn’t hate it, but I also did not love it. It wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read, but it is definitely not the best. Quite average, nothing I would either recommend or discourage anyone from reading. Although overall, it was kind of disappointing, because based on the summary when I first picked it up, I thought it has a lot of potentials to be a really thought-provoking and entertaining story. I just don’t believe the author executed it as well as it could have been.

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The Hate U Give: Book Review

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas published in 2017.

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“Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.  Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.”

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I’ve been wanting to read this book for months, and I finally got my hands on it. It certainly did not disappoint. 

This book incorporates every aspect I love about a story; strong characters, a plot that keeps on delivering, and a theme that forces the reader to view themselves, and their society, in a different light. It follows sixteen-year-old Starr Carter as she lives in Garden Heights, a run-down gang-ridden community while attending school in the wealthy, predominantly white suburbs of Williamson. On the way home from a house party, Starr’s childhood friend Khalid is fatally shot by a police officer who pulled them over due to a broken tail light, and she is an intimate witness to his death. Similarly to the many police killings of innocent black men in real life, there was outrage in both his community and on social media. Throughout the entire novel, we see Starr suffering from PTSD from the incident and cope with the growing pressure to achieve justice for Khalid. This novel is constantly escalating in emotions and action taken by Starr, which kept me turning the page even though I had midterms to study for. On a side note, please pray for my GPA.

The characters in The Hate U Give are remarkable. To start, they all have such strong and stable personalities, such as Starr’s father. I would happily read a whole book that followed her father, Maverick Carter, the former gang-member turned family man that has a hot temper and unconditional love for his children. This character has a competitive dynamic with Starr’s Uncle Carlos, who took care of Starr in her early life when Maverick was in prison. I would love to discuss all of the unforgettable characters in this novel and how they contributed to the depth of the story, but we would be here all day. Every single one of them is so genuine and I found myself heavily invested in not only Starr’s life but her community as a whole.

Another character that I found myself loving is Hailey Starr’s upper-class friend from school that reveals herself to be racist after Khalid’s shooting. Okay, I understand why that sounds bad; hear me out though. As much as I hate her from a moral standpoint, I love her from a literary point of view. She represents so many people in our society; the closeted racists that lurk among us. The people who claim they aren’t racist because they have black friends, but argues that the young black kid who was shot by the police deserved it since he was a “thug”. Also, Angie Thomas takes it one step further and made her one of Starr’s best friends. It is heartbreaking to learn that someone you have grown to trust and love has a quality that cannot be overlooked like a bad habit of chewing with your mouth open. It’s a punch in the gut to both Starr and the reader, making the character of Hailey even more impactful. Simply stated, the characters that surround Starr are incredibly compelling and contribute to the powerful themes.

I heard someone say that every white person should read this book, and I couldn’t agree more. Some people might believe that since it’s from the perspective of a young black girl who mainly deals with issues pertaining to the African American community, that they would not be able to relate. This book is not about being able to relate though, it’s about pushing the limits of your moral compass and expanding your frame of mind. Also, if anything, a white person’s inability to relate should encourage them to pick up this book since it can be a valuable tool for learning some empathy and compassion. Beyond the police brutality, I learned a lot about the inner politics of street gangs, specifically the fact that many younger members are trapped in the cycle of violence because they cannot find opportunities elsewhere due to a lack of opportunity. This makes the media labelling Khalid as a thug so much more hurtful, as the only reason he was apart of a gang was to pay off his mother’s debts.

This book had me laughing, crying and shaking my head at society all at the same time. I noticed that my emotions were mirroring Starr’s, a quality I admire in a story. The scariest aspect of this is how real it is. Everything mentioned in this book has been happening for decades, is happening as we speak, and will continue to happen unless those in power decide to open their minds and be held responsible for their actions. It’s a heavy topic that deserves proper attention, both in a literary form and real-life context. 

I really can’t think of anything bad to say about this novel. I absolutely loved every part of it. I highly recommend it to anyone who can get their hands on a copy. If you can’t find something to relate to in this, you’ll definitely find something that you can learn from it.

If you wish to learn more about the Black Lives Matter movement or donate to the cause, click here.

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The List: Book Review

The List by Siobhan Vivian published in 2012.

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“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.”

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This book has made me so thankful that I’m finally out of high school. 

The endless ego-centrism over minor events such as the homecoming dance and the ever pressing need to fit it or prove who you are to the world is exhaustingalthough I say this as if these traits aren’t still with many people when they leave high school.

In The List eight teenage girls, two from each grade level, are chosen as either the prettiest or ugliest of their year. The maker of the list is anonymous and supposedly different each year, yet they hold an incomprehensible amount of power over the entire student body. These eight girls are all affected differently based on their own individual personality and the ranking they receive. Relationships crumble, gender identities are explored, metaphorical masks are put on and even an eating disorder is brought on, which I’ll be talking about more later.

When I found out there were eight main characters, who swap perspectives on a chapter basis in a somewhat random order, I was very nervous. Not only are there the main eight girls, but there are side characters such as boyfriends, classmates, parents and siblings. I was afraid of forgetting characters names, getting them mixed up or blurring the individual storylines. Yet surprisingly, this didn’t happen. The characterization was quite strong, each girl was very different so it wasn’t easy to get them confused. Although, the plot was spread a bit thin. Since this book is only 336 pages there isn’t much room to delve into the lives of eight people. In fact, with some simple math, anyone can find out that this only leaves each character with 42 pages each, and some were focused on more such as the two senior girls. 42 pages are definitely not enough to tell the story that each character deserves, and this can be seen through many plot holes.

I have to admit that I really liked the very last line, it punched me in the gut and gives the reader something to think about even after they close the book. This is something a good ending should do. The sinking realization that the thing she fought so hard to attain, the title of homecoming queen, is actually meaningless.

“Obviously the rhinestones wouldn’t be diamonds, but Margo had always assumed the tiara would be metal.

It isn’t.

It is plastic.”

Even though the last line tickles me, the overall ending of the story was somewhat disappointing. This is a book that definitely could have benefited from an epilogue to tie up loose ends. There are so many questions I had when I closed the book that left such an unsatisfying taste in my mouth. Did the list get passed onto the next year? If so, who was gifted the responsibility of writing it? Does the principal ever find out who wrote it? Did Bridget recover from her eating disorder? Does Sarah finally admit her feelings to Milo? All great questions, all unanswered by the end of the novel. Speaking of some factors that were never addressed, I was hoping that someone would question why there is no official list of best and worst looking male students. I understand that this was supposed to be a commentary on the pressure of teenage girls to depend on their physical appearance, but I was hoping someone within the novel would notice the double-standard that existed between the male and female students.

I mentioned before that some heavy topics were discussed, but the one I want to focus on is Bridget’s eating disorder. The most impacting character, in my opinion, was Bridget and how she struggled with eating disorders. Interestingly enough, the words eating disorder, bulimia or anorexia are never mentioned, but it is made abundantly clear that Bridget has fell victim to this mental illness. Despite being declared as one of the prettiest girls in school, she is far from happy. In fact, this only puts more pressure on her to fit this image of perfection. Denial is common for Bridget, as she is constantly trying to convince herself that her condition is not that bad. It ranges from experimenting with a disgusting juice cleanse to skipping meals to even attempting to vomit in the school’s washroom. It was truly uncomfortable to read but in the best way, since it forces the reader to open their eyes and embrace how ugly eating disorders can truly be, and how societal pressures can make these disorders so much more dangerous.

Overall, this is an interesting concept to explore within a novel and was written fairly well. I would recommend it to individuals that are either in high school or have just recently exited high school though since it does have themes most engaging for young people.

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