A unique ability is given to words: they can convey ideas and spur people into action that might be unwanted by those in positions of power. The List by Patricia Forde portrays a world in which there is a List of 500 words people can use and a plot to remove even that small liberty.
Letta is the apprentice to Ark’s Wordsmith, leaving her with the responsibility of helping to maintain a record of words, even those that are no longer allowed to be spoken by common people. After the Wordsmith goes on a word-finding trip, Letta is left in charge of the shop when a boy her age comes in, bleeding and in need of help. In helping to make him well and hiding the boy from the authorities, Letta learns of and works to fight against a deplorable plot to remove everyone’s language ability.
The story was interesting and moved relatively quickly once the basic plot and character information was introduced. While I may be biased toward enjoying stories that rely strongly upon language and the preservation of words and artistic thought, I was intrigued to see how the story would develop but was moderately disappointed to encounter quite stereotypical characters in an otherwise entertaining story. The narrative was reminiscent of much seminal literature that depicts dystopias that heavily censor their citizens, which could help to offer familiarity benchmarks for readers but could also hurt it by causing readers to actively compare them; however, this novel offers a more timely, accessible censorship dystopia for younger readers.
Overall, I’d give it a 4 out of 5 stars.