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The List

Review

The List

In Patricia Forde’s THE LIST, language is powerful and words can easily be used to elevate or to harm.

After the Melting, the apocalyptic destruction of modern cities and technology, John Noa builds Ark and sets out to control the language of the inhabitants who live there. Taking away most of the lexicon, Noa has limited the vocabulary allowed to just 500 words, creating a new way of speaking called List.

Letta, however, is an exception to the rules of List. As the apprentice to the Wordsmith, she is allowed to collect, write and understand all the words, though she is required to speak List publically. When her guardian and master, Benjamin, goes missing and a wounded teenage boy from outside Ark appears in her shop, Letta begins to see the world in a whole new way.

"THE LIST will give [readers] much to talk about and ponder. It unpacks some important themes and asks its readers to think critically.  Letta is a great heroine and the novel is as fun as it is thoughtful."

The wounded boy is Marlo, who lives just beyond Ark in Tintown. He lives with the Desecrators, artists, musicians and others who challenge the kind of world John Noa is building. Having been shot by part of Noa’s police force, Marlo finds sanctuary and help in Letta’s shop. The chemistry between Letta and Marlo is almost instantaneous and Letta decides to risk her life for the type of person she has always been told is a threat and a danger. The more she learns from Marlo, and the more people he introduces her to, the more she questions John Noa’s version of history and his vision of the future. The knowledge she gains and the questions she starts asking become even more important when she uncovers truths about Noa’s relationship with Benjamin, the value of her parents and Noa’s terrifying plans for the people of Ark.

Patricia Forde’s THE LIST is an entertaining and poignant examination of authority, voice, morality and community. At the center is Letta, shaped by the choices of those who came before her and confronting her own set of difficult choices.

THE LIST is exciting and provocative. Letta’s is a coming of age story: she finds herself attracted to Marlo and happy to be near him, yet is able to prioritize her duties to her neighbors and loved ones, even if it means being without him. She is not yet 18-years-old and though she has suffered trauma in the past, she must shoulder new burdens and make very grown-up life or death decisions.

Letta’s world is one ravaged by climate change, the perils of ignorance and unchecked power. Her bravery, as well as her doubts, actions, responses and relationships, are all well-conceived and nicely crafted by Forde. The concept of control through language is a particularly interesting twist on what could've been an otherwise predictable speculative culture.

THE LIST will give middle grade readers (adult readers as well) much to talk about and ponder. It unpacks some important themes and asks its readers to think critically.  Letta is a great heroine and the novel is as fun as it is thoughtful.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on August 22, 2017

The List
by Patricia Forde