Ahoy there me mateys! I received this middle-grade sci-fi eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. So here be me honest musings . . .
the list (Patricia Forde)
Title: the list
Author: Patricia Forde
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Publication Date: TODAY!!! (hardback/e-book)
This book caught me eye because of the premise and the comparisons to the giver and fahrenheit 451. I loved the concept. It takes place in post-apocalyptic America. Climate change has caused the sea levels to rise. The community of Ark is one of the last places where humans survive.
This village is controlled in every way by its founder, John Noa. One of the ways in which the population is controlled is through language. There are 700 sanctioned words on The List. Because if ye can’t express a concept then ye can’t act on it, right? The only people who have access to more words are the leaders and the local Wordsmith (kind of a living dictionary and the keeper of more complex words). For example, if a person learns a trade, like carpentry, then that person is allowed to learn additional words (like 25 or so) relating specifically to that task. Use words outside The List too often and face banishment or worse.
The story centers around Letta, the Wordsmith’s apprentice. The master wordsmith goes off on an errand, leaving Letta in charge. Circumstances ensue which cause Letta to confront everything she has ever believed to be true.
While the concept was fascinating, the execution did not, to me mind, do it justice. It was a far cry from the two favorite books it had been compared to. For one thing, the use of language by Letta just seemed too complex. The List was hardly used at all in the author’s writing. Letta’s thoughts involve words like cerulean, pineapple, etc. despite having never seen pictures. How can you truly understand the words without a real frame of reference – especially with such a limited List to try and explain them. It would have been more interesting to me if the entire beginning of the novel had been put together only using List and got more complicated as Letta’s understanding of Ark grew more complex.
Also the plot was sort of meandering. Letta makes extremely stupid mistakes to set up future plot points. For all of her learning, Letta just seemed helpless, unintelligent, and clueless. There is a type of insta-love connection between her and the non-Ark boy she helps. People sneak in and out of her house so easily that the guards are practically non-existent or just that plain dumb. The flow of the story was just not to me taste. The characters also seemed poorly developed and rather simplistic. Overall I would like to see this concept tackled in another way.
So lastly . . .
Thank you Sourcebooks Jabberwocky!
The author’s website has this to say about the novel:
Fahrenheit 451 meets The Giver for tweens in this gripping story about the power of words and the dangers of censorship.
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.
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