Words are Important

The List by Patricia Forde

Publication date August 1, 2017

Summary from NetGalley:

Fahrenheit 451 meets The Giver for tweens in this gripping story about the power The Listof words and the dangers of censorship.

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.


ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.

This book was originally published in Ireland in 2014, but is now just being published here in the states, and I am really glad that Sourcebooks has picked it up. It is a really strong dystopian, post apocalypse novel for teens and older tweens.  I think there are even some young adults that will enjoy it although the cover might keep them from picking it up.  I love the cover, but it screams middle grade not YA which is a shame as I think almost any age level would enjoy this book.  I’m not promoting it on my Tween Tuesday post however because I think it reads a little older than 11-12, more like 14 and up.  I am sure there will be younger kids who like it but I didn’t want to put it out there as just a tween book.  

The plot is what really drives this story.  It takes place after man has basically ruined the earth with global warming and pollution.  There are some references to the water rising and rain water not being safe to drink.  John Noa was someone who tried to warn people but when his words fell on deaf ears, he created the Ark, a settlement that was remote enough it survived the cataclysms that destroyed the rest of the world.  He continues to rule it with an iron fist, where the slightest infraction will get you banished.  Including speaking words that are not on the List. This is a list of approved words that Letta and the wordsmith Benjamin keep track of and is taught to the kids in school.  There are some words that are exceptions for certain trades, but otherwise most words that are descriptive are eliminated.  For example, they only have the word insect, not the 100’s of words that we currently have for every insect on earth.  Not so bad maybe, but if you think about it, you will see how far John Noa might go to control everyone’s speech and thought.  

Letta is a strong character, but I had trouble figuring out how old she is.  I don’t think we are ever told, but she reads more like a 16 or 17 year old rather than the 14 year old I thin she is meant to be.  But that just might be me.  She goes on quite a journey, while never leaving her quite little village of Ark.  She learns  so much in such a short period of time, about what is really going on and about her family, that I was amazed that she didn’t just curl up into a tiny ball and cry.  But she is strong and perseveres to do what she thinks is right when she discovers how Noa plans to take away everyone’s speech.  

Finn and Marlo are two people who live outside of Ark with a band of survivors and call themselves Creators.  Most of these people survived the destruction of the world, but were not part of the original believers so are not allowed to live in Ark. Although they appear to be able to come and go with out detection.  They see John Noa for who he is and are working to over throw him and make Ark a better place. They help Letta discover the truth about what Noa is doing and help her prevent it. I liked both of these characters.  Marlo is a little bit of a romantic interest, which I didn’t think was needed in the story and is what makes me hesitate to call it a tween book.  It just seemed to be more than the usual tween crush and or romance, but again that might just be me.

A great read about what the world might look like a few years after the initial catastrophe.  Also a great cautionary tale about the power of words and censorship. I highly recommend it and although I can’t find anywhere that says it is a series, I am certainly looking forward to more books about Letta and this interesting world the author has created. 



  1. whoa Fahrenheit 451 meets The Giver? Woooooow. i really want to check this out. thanks for clarifying that this is more than just for tweens. ❤


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