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!