Title: THE LIST
Author: Patricia Forde
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
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.
This cover and description totally pulled me in and I knew I had to read this book. I wasn’t disappointed as the story fulfilled my expectations and I was pleased by Forde’s prose and to live in her world for a short time.
I’m not one of those who wishes Dystopian would die and never come back. I love a well-told Dystopian tale. Plus, THE GIVER, FARENHEIT 451, 1984 … all of these are tales of my childhood and a book which comps these titles at least deserves a peek from me.
Letta’s world is in the far future after global warming caused floods to cover the earth and all that is left is a small town called Ark, founded by a man (Noa) who foresaw the floods. (Funny, right?) What I love about this town (well, hate about it, but it makes for a good story) is the limit they put on the words the people may use, but they are intent on preserving the language.
This is where Letta and her wordsmith master come in. What follows is a twisty tale full of intense conflict that, while not wholly original, will pull young readers in for sure. The villain is one to love to hate, and Letta is a protagonist to cheer for.
I love the message that words have power and can hurt, but at the same time, taking them away only limits society and is not the answer. Forde’s use of this limited word bank shows in the dialogue and in the development of the characters and the journey they are on.
I thought Forde’s worldbuilding was clear and detailed and she used mystery and so many feelings to allow the reader to connect to the characters and the story.
I would classify this as upper middle grade because of the violence and the slight love story, but it’s still very tame and teaches many valuable lessons.
Definitely a book suitable for a classroom library or a middle school project. Very well done.