The Hot List

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
The Hot List Book Poster Image
A fresh look at tween obsession with being in the in crowd.

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Kids say

age 10+
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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

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.

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

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.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What 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.

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Kid, 10 years old August 4, 2011

hot list

a good story

What's the story?

Best-friend seventh graders Sophie and Maddie make up a list of the hottest guys and girls in school and write it anonymously on the inside door of a stall in the girls' bathroom at their public middle school. As the list takes on a life of its own, with some mystery person continuing to post a list monthly, the girls’ friendship crumbles after Maddie aligns with Hot List-er Nia. Sophie bets Nia she can remake her guy pal Squid into Hot List material within a month. If she loses the bet, Sophie will have to tell top-of-the list hot guy Hayden she has a crush on him. Meanwhile, Sophie is having a rough time with the fact that her dad, the school principal, is dating Nia's mom, a teacher at the school. She's the first woman he's been serious about since her mom died when Sophie was 3.

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the pressure on kids to be popular. Is that a very strong pull at your school? Are there ways to resist it?

  • Sophie and her classmates solve their problems and figure out their social issues on their own. Do you think their parents, teachers, and the principal should have been paying closer attention?

  • What do you think of Sophie’s experiment to try to change Squid from a happy goofball to a cool Hot guy? What does he end up teaching Sophie?

  • Should Sophie have gotten punished for starting the Hot List and hurting people’s feelings? Sophie almost loses her best friend over the Hot List. What does she learn about friendship from her experience?

Book details

  • Author: Hillary Homzie
  • Genre: Friendship
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: Aladdin
  • Publication date: March 8, 2011
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 12
  • Number of pages: 256
  • Last updated: November 11, 2020

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