ARC REVIEW: The List – by Patricia Forde

Title: The List
Author: Patricia Forde

Genre: Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: April 16th 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Finished reading: July 14th 2017
Pages: 336
(Original title: ‘The Wordsmith’)

“There’s always truth in dreams. Don’t you know that? We have to learn what they mean, that’s all.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Sourcebooks Jabberwocky in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I admit I wanted to read The List as soon as I saw that absolutely stunning cover; yes, even before I read the blurb which only confirmed my desire to read this story. The List was actually originally published two years ago under a different title, but will be republished next month with this stunning cover. Now I have read it there is no doubt that this debut novel by Patricia Forde is based on a very fascinating concept. The List is set in a dystopian world where most of the world is destroyed by the Melting, most people now forced to live in the city of Ark and their surroundings because there is nowhere else left. The founder of Ark is Noa (see the biblical references yet?) and he has restricted the use of language to just 500 approved words… His belief of humanity being able to use/abuse words and words bringing doom to the human kind is fascinating and I would definitely have given The List a full 5 stars for originality. The so-called List speak is fascinating (although that might just be the philologist in me talking) and the List itself plays a central role in the story. The worldbuilding is intriguing and even though the plot itself isn’t all that exciting I’m sure it will be fitting enough for the age group. The List is ment as a Middle Grade read and I admit I don’t have a lot of experience reading stories for this age. Still, I do believe the tone doesn’t always felt right (too adult) and I personally had difficulties connecting to the writing style. As fascinating as the concept of this story sounded, I don’t think I enjoyed actually reading about it as much as I would have hoped… I also struggled to connect to the characters and personally didn’t like Letta at all. She seemed quite bland as a main character and I’m not sure if she will be able to win over the target group either; this has most likely to do with the lack of character development in general. The ending itself wasn’t really satisfying either and it took me a lot longer than expected to finish this story. In short, while I loved certain elements of The List (the concept, the List-speak), I also struggled with other elements and all in all unfortunately I ended up having mixed thoughts.

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After the Melting, only the lucky have survived and most of them live in the city of Ark. To keep things running smoothly the founder Noa has speech constrained to 500 approved words; if you speak outside the approved lexicon you will face banishment. Only a few people are able to speak freely, and only in private: the Wordsmith and his apprentice Letta belong to that group. When her master dies, Letta is suddenly promoted to Wordsmith and charged with collecting and saving words. But she doesn’t realize something sinister is going on in Ark… Something that will have devastating effects if not prevented.

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The List is without doubt based on a very fascinating and original concept I would easily have given the highest rating for. The language elements are very interesting as well and this was definitely my favorite element of the story. That said, it did take me way longer than expected to read this Middle Grade story and I had difficulties connecting to both the writing style and the characters. I ended up having mixed thoughts about The List, but I guess the story can go either way for you.


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