Patricia Forde’s The List is a dystopian YA that evokes Lois Lowry’s classic, The Giver.
Set in the future, the polar ice caps have melted, flooding the earth. At least one scientist had the foresight to create a city that would escape the devastating flood, and he called the city Ark (are you surprised his name was Noa?). The new city would be run in a very totalitarian manner with new rules. One rule is a rule of language. Because words can be harmful or deceitful, only approved words – those on The List – may be used in everyday language. But a few chosen people over the years are appointed as Wordsmiths – those who keep and archive as many words as can be found, even those not on the approved list.
Letta is an apprentice to one such Wordsmith, but when he dies suddenly in an accident, she becomes the Wordsmith for Ark.
But Letta has made friends with Marlo, a Desecrator – someone living outside the rule of the Ark, using the old language. And she’ll need the help of her outside friends when she discovers a plot to strip even more language away from the people to completely control their power (or lack of power) of speech.
The adult reader may find that author Forde figuratively hits the reader over the head with metaphors and allusions, but the target YA audience is likely to discover much of this imagery here for the first time.
There are some frightful comparisons to our modern, political world, with the assault on language and the use of language as a battering ram to completely shut down opposing points of view.
The opening sequence, as we meet Letta and learn (by observing) about this world, and the discovery of Marlo, being shot and searched for by ‘Gavvers’, was really tremendous. It draws the reader in and the short, abbreviated dialog definitely captures our attention. But the danger set-up in this opening is over-come too easily, in the long-run, and the tight, fascinating story loses some focus and energy. This seems a bit odd since the characters in the book had a more concentrated (focused) goal in the second half of the book. But once the characters and the goals were established, we lost more interest in this world.
There is nothing particularly new here. As I said in the beginning, this borrows heavily from The Giver, as well as other time-worn classics (1984 anyone?). But of course our kids don’t read the classics much anymore, so for them, this book is fascinatingly fresh. For the rest of us, it’s read-worthy, but maybe check it out from your local library.
Looking for a good book? The List by Patricia Forde is a dystopian YA book that treads heavily on the heels of other classic dystopian novels, such as The Giver, and 1984. It’s worth a read, but don’t expect anything too new.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: Patricia Forde
publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
hardcover, 336 pages