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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Paints a vivid picture of contemporary middle school life and the social/romantic life of tweens, especially the challenge of maintaining lasting friendships among girls. It shows that being comfortable with who you are can make you happier than being popular.
Sophie learns the value of friendship and forgiveness and the folly of trying to change yourself or others just to be popular. She also learns not to judge people too harshly, especially Nia, who seems like she has everything but suffers like everyone else. And when Sophie is simply honest about her feelings with her girlfriend or the boy she’s crushing on, they respond positively.
Positive Role Models
Sophie is smart, clever, and introspective. When things start to get out of hand, she realizes she has messed things up and learns from her mistakes. Squid shows he is happy being who he is. After Sophie gives him a makeover and he gets a cute haircut and trendy new clothes, he chooses to go back to his old uncool friends and wear his Spider-Man T-shirts, not caring what others think. Sophie’s dad is loving and understanding and gently tries to help her heal her relationship with Maddie. Ultra-popular Hayden is a genuinely nice guy who befriends Squid and doesn’t care about being popular.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this middle school story deals with peer pressure, gossip, cliques, crushes, lying to parents and teachers, and defacing school property. Sophie creates a social tsunami at her school but never suffers any official consequences. She does, however, learn from her mistakes within her peer group.
Is It Any Good?
THE HOT LIST effectively tackles a real scourge of middle school: popularity obsession. It offers a realistic portrayal of peer pressure, mean-girl behavior, and tween angst through well-drawn, relatively complex kid characters who struggle with these issues. The adult characters are more like ciphers, if not AWOL altogether. Sophie's dad, the school principal, remains clueless about the Hot List craze that has completely consumed the student body and unaware that his daughter is having trouble accepting his new girlfriend and her daughter, a school rival. Lessons learned don't come from grownups here but from the kids themselves, as when Squid shows Sophie that giving up his dorky friends is too high a price to pay for being in the in crowd.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.