The List

Title: The List

Author: Patricia Forde

Read harder Challenge: Yes; can be a book about books or a debut novel

Star Review: ♥♥♥♥ /5

Why: I hadn’t intended to finish this book today; The Stone Sky (final installment of NK Jemisin’s newest trilogy) came out Tuesday and I was itching to finish.  Alas, I left it at school.  That’s what I get for trying to read a physical book at lunch.  Anyway.  This book is great for fans of Ella Minnow Pea and The Queen of the Tearling series.  Set in a dystopian future, Letta (perhaps a reference to “Letter”) is the apprentice wordsmith for the town of Ark, seemingly the only town to survive the catastrophic disasters that befall humans and wipe out most of their population – referred to as The Melting.  As wordsmith, Letta and her master are responsible for The List, the group of necessary words that make up each citizen’s lexicon.  All other words are banned, as they are unnecessary, and words (of pundits, politicians, newspapers…) had gotten them into this sorry mess in the first place.  Letta is proud of their town and the community that has been built here under the guidance of John Noa (Noa built the Ark…), until a boy stumbles into the shop one day while the master is searching for lost words in the wild, and decides to help him.  She finds out more than she could have imagined about her little town, and the book follows her journey and the decisions she makes along the way.

This book is great for middle schoolers – there’s action, empathetic characters, and a good message.  What I liked most about this book was that the characters were complicated, with messy relationships and pasts, and their actions couldn’t be easily predicted.  What is the value of good intentions?  Are all people as they seem?  Who is responsible for the actions of a collective? Is “by any means necessary” morally reprehensible or…well…necessary?  Young people can tackle all of those questions within the confines of this text.  The world-building and power of description were both good, and I texted my librarian asking her to buy several copies for our middle school library!


The Memory Tree

Another new book for you guys!  This one is hot off the presses – it came out in March.  Feel free to leave a comment if you’d read it to offer your own opinion!

Title: The Memory Tree (Amazon)

Author: Glenn Haybittle

Read harder Challenge: Could be – A book about war

Star Review: ♥♥♥ /5

Why: A good read for fans of Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake series. This book has some really compelling characteristics.  It starts as a sci-fi or dystopian fiction, and I love a story that starts right in the middle of the action.  This book really challenges the reader to develop their schema as quickly as possible so they don’t miss what’s happening. I know some people don’t like this, but it really works for me.  The first two thirds of the book follow the story line of two characters who have had their memories taken away, and who seem fated to find each other.  The suspense of this part of the book was extremely well-handled and as a result I found myself continuing the story despite lingering confusion based on some incomplete world-building.

The last third of the book follows two different, but connected stories, and this part veers hard into the historical fiction genre.  While the connection between the stories themselves continues to have an element of science fiction, I really didn’t like the drastic shift, and given Glenn Haybittle’s previously published work, it really felt as though the author didn’t have the stamina to continue the fresh, edgy story and switched to something with which they were more comfortable.  That being said, the first two thirds of the story had already invested me in seeing it through until the end, so the timing on taking this risk paid off. The ending is super open-ended.


I would be willing to recommend The Memory Tree to someone, but only if they are admitted fans of science fiction and historical fiction in equal measure.  While I thought there were some interesting liberties taken in the dystopian fiction genre, I thought the execution fell flat and so while I finished, I didn’t feel pushed to in the exhilarating way that really exceptional fiction does.