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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

ARC Review: The List by Patricia Forde


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33846933-the-list
Please Note:  I received an advance reader's copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way
  Synopsis (From Goodreads):
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.


Review:
I have just finished this book and have VERY mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I think The List, by Patricia Forde, is well-written and has a compelling main character.  But, for me, the plot had so serious logic problems.  It was also rather offensive, in parts.

What I Liked:
Characters:
Letta, the Wordsmith's apprentice, is the heart of the book.  She is an orphan who is taken in by Benjamin, the Wordsmith.  He is like a father to her, so when he disappears and is feared dead, Letta is devastated.  She is now the Wordsmith, and must collect and distribute the approved lists of 500 words that each person may use in daily life.  

I liked Letta and thought she was a kind, empathetic soul.  She, like the rest of her town (called Ark), is easily led by Noa (the town's leader).  But her eyes are opened when she helps a boy hid from the gavvers (police).  She was a bit naive, trusting the boy, Marlo, so easily.  But I think that most of the people in the town are very sheltered, and so this was plausible.  

I also liked Marlo and Finn, the two rebels.  They were not perfect people.  They justified violence and kidnapping in the name of rebellion.  But they also tried to talk Letta out of plans that would put her in danger.  I didn't feel they were using her, but that they actually cared for Letta.

No Forced Romance:
While the book hinted at an attraction between Letta and Marlo, it didn't get bogged down in the predictable romance trope.  At least during the length of the story, the characters have more important things to worry about than "Does he/she like me?"

Dystopian Society:
What would occur if the worst of global warming happens?  Massive floods, disruptions of society, and civil unrest could be the result.  In the book, what is left is an agrarian society that is tightly controlled by Noa.  He is a fanatic who believes that the root of all evil is language.  Somehow he believes that if people couldn't speak or communicate, they wouldn't destroy the earth.

The details of the set up of the society, with everything tightly controlled, including water and food being prepared in communal kitchens, was intriguing.  Censoring language seems probable in such a culture.  Other thing such as religion, marriage, books, and technology are also banned.


What I Didn't Like:
Plot Points:
Some of the plot points were problematic for me.  Noa, in an attempt to stop the use of language, cuts out the tongues of some of the children.  The book says that when this happened and they couldn't speak, they were driven to despair and killed themselves.  Such trauma may drive someone to commit suicide, but it didn't sit well with me that since they couldn't speak, they weren't able to communicate.  Lots of people can't speak, and learn other ways to communicate. 

Hasn't the author heard about sign language?  I happen to know children who are non-verbal and they are not in despair.  They use many methods to interact with others.  To suggest that not being able to access language in the same way as others would lead to despair is offensive to me.
 
The "wordless", as those who couldn't speak are called, could have developed a secret form of sign language or some other means to speak to each other.  That would have said more about the resiliency of the human spirit, and would have been a better message.

Logic issues:
Another problem with the plot involves the main problem.  Noa is going to poison the town with a chemical that would destroy the part of the brain that is used for language.  He confidently states that everyone, including future generations, will be free of the use of language from the poisoning.  Even if such a chemical did exist (and thankfully it doesn't), it wouldn't alter a person's DNA.  Any offspring would be unaffected.  This is basic genetics.  Surely Noa would be aware of that.

Plus, does he think that people wouldn't find alternate ways to communicate?  If they could not, they would have a tough time functioning as a society.  Also, wouldn't there be a panic and uprising when people wake up one day and suddenly can't communicate?  If he's trying to create a society that is harmless, this seems like a ridiculous approach.

For these reasons, I cannot recommend this book.

Rating: 




Release Date: August 1st, 2017

Genre:  YA Dystopian

Publisher:  Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Length:  336 pages

Source:  Netgalley

Format:  ARC E-Book

Recommendation:  This book had much promise, but the details of the plot left me offended and speechless.  I cannot recommend this book.
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