The List by Patricia Forde

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In the city of Ark, speech is constrained to five hundred sanctioned words. Speak outside the approved lexicon and face banishment. The exceptions are the Wordsmith and his apprentice Letta, the keepers and archivists of all language in their post-apocalyptic, neo-medieval world. 

On the death of her master, Letta is suddenly promoted to Wordsmith, charged with collecting and saving words. But when she uncovers a sinister plan to suppress language and rob Ark’s citizens of their power of speech, she realizes that it’s up to her to save not only words, but culture itself. (taken from Goodreads)

I have mixed feelings about this book. I really can’t say why (maybe it’s the feel I got from the cover?), but I expected a lighthearted, sweet story. That does not describe this book at all. Really, it feels like 1984 or The Giver, but written for a younger demographic. It’s much more serious and thought provoking than I thought it would be.

I did like the way this book brought to the fore how powerful words can be. Noa, the leader of the city of Ark, knows that words can be deceitful and dangerous, so he restricts the words that are allowed. It’s your typical dystopian novel in many respects: art and music are forbidden, and every aspect of life is tightly controlled. Letta, the main character, has to decide whether she will fall in line, or risk everything for the possibility of a different future.

I was surprised at some of the harshness of this book. If your child reads this, expect to have some deep conversations about it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. I think kids can handle a lot more than we sometimes give them credit for. That being said, I did tell my ten year old to expect some heavy subject matter should he choose to read this. As of yet, he hasn’t.

The characters seemed to be developed just enough to not be one dimensional, but not much beyond that. I felt that the pacing of this book was a little off. The beginning went very slowly for me, while the ending seemed rushed. Some things were a little heavy-handed, such as the names (Ark; Noa). I think that makes it seem as though I disliked the book, but I didn’t. I thought it was a solid addition to the dystopian fiction genre. It’s just nothing new.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

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