Published: August 8, 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Genre: Middle Grade
Pages: 336 (Hardcover)
My Rating: N/A
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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.
I don’t usually read middle grade books since they’re geared for an audience much younger than me, but I couldn’t resist the synopsis for The List. This is a dystopian book where a great flood has covered much of Earth’s landmasses and the only civilized sanctuary is called the Ark. In the Ark, citizens have fresh water, food, and occasional electricity, but their language is being limited by mandate of John Noa, leader of the Ark. He thinks that by limiting language he can prevent what he sees as the failures of the previous society, but not everyone agrees with his decisions.
The Ark may be the only truly developed sanctuary, but there are a few other small enclaves of humanity left – the town of Fearfall and an enclave of artists known as the Desecrators, many of whom fled the Ark when restrictions were placed on freedom of artistic expression. The Desecrators regularly stage rebellious expositions of their talents (from art to music) to protest Noa’s ridiculous laws. What surprised me was how docilely the citizens seem to accept the new impositions on their language and everyday life… when your freedoms are taken slowly and every day is about survival, I suppose you don’t think about things like that. Letta, the wordsmith’s apprentice was just like everyone else – meekly accepting each new law handed down from above – until an injured boy entered the shop. Marlo was a Desecrator, or as they refer to themselves, a Creator and should have been turned in to the gavvers who enforce Ark law.
Letta was a likable enough character, though I was frustrated with her on several occasions because she couldn’t accept that Ark law was wrong and John Noa wasn’t such a beneficent ruler after all. This was a believable and expected reaction, and I was mostly annoyed that she didn’t see what I (the knowing reader) could see from an outside perspective so it wasn’t a big deal. Overall, the story was pretty good and I think that to a reader of the right age group, it would be awesome. I’m a little old to appreciate middle-grade to its full extent, but The List was creative and pretty entertaining!