Ark is the last safe place on Earth, and every resource is utilized fully. After the polar ice melted and the seas rose, the world changed, and Noa was smart enough to create Ark and hold it in his iron fist. He doesn’t allow art. Or music. And there’s a list of 500 words that are the only ones allowed to be used.
Letta is an apprentice Wordsmith, and can read all words, not just those on the list. When her master vanishes and Letta is made the new wordsmith, she’s told to cut even more words from the list. Then Letta meets a boy who knows all the old words, and he warns her that Noa intends to take language from people forever. Letta must decide between fighting for words and art and music, or facing banishment in the wilds.
As an avid reader and writer—and as a former environmental biology major—the premise of The List horrified me. The environmental disasters that led to the changed world are not far-fetched to me, but the idea of forbidding almost every word is horrifying beyond belief. While I’ve seen a lot of comments that this book is middle-grade, I don’t really agree with that. It’s not written on a middle-grade reading level, and it deals with much deeper issues than most middle-grade books I’ve seen. I would classify it as solidly YA, and while the premise isn’t totally unique, the worldbuilding and characters are solid enough to make it worth reading…even if the idea of someone who controls spoken words is terrifying.
Patricia Forde lives in western Ireland and has written children’s books, plays, and television drama series. The List is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Sourcebooks via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
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