About The List
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.
Strong, evocative writing makes The List a story difficult to put down. I loved Letta’s care for words and her struggle to do what’s right as she begins to realize that may mean defying the leadership and rules of Ark. Something about the story reminded me very much of The Giver. I think because of the repressive environment and Letta’s growing need to escape. I liked Marlo’s character, too, and the way he protected Letta and helped her without expecting anything in return.
Letta’s world has been ravaged by what she refers to as the Melting. Sea levels have risen as a result of polar ice melting due to global warming. The story doesn’t really delve into the politics or anything else, it’s just the background premise, and I thought the pairing of a flood due to sea levels rising and the references to Noah’s Ark were kind of interesting. The story doesn’t try to retell the Biblical tale beyond those few references.
The plot moved quickly and kept me guessing at what would happen next. I think I read the whole book in two sessions—I could barely stand to put it down until the last page. The story builds to a pretty intense climax and resolves with plenty of setup for a sequel.
Other than some references to violence and brief depictions, it’s a pretty clean story, and a great read for those transitioning from middle grade to young adult literature. Fans of dystopian literature, especially stories about communities under repressive rule like Uglies by Scott Westerfeld or Divergent by Veronica Roth definitely need to put The List on their reading lists.
Letta has red hair and pale skin. Marlo has dark hair and olive skin.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Letta mentions a local boy who wants to mate with her. In this context, it seems like he wants to marry her, or to choose her as his mate. She doesn’t have to worry about this until she’s eighteen, however. It’s clear she feels attracted to Marlo.
Letta lives in a town called Ark, founded by a man named John Noa, but that’s basically where the obvious references to the Biblical story end. Noa crafts specific rules governing the behavior of all who live in Ark and banishes anyone who defies his commands.
Marlo believes dreams have spiritual significance. At one point he comes to Letta because he dreamed she called to him. Letta doesn’t share his belief.
Her village contains a statue of a woman referred to as the Goddess, even though she’s reported to be a prophet, the last God sent. Letta briefly wonders how she came to be known as a goddess. At one point, she witnesses a woman petitioning the Goddess for help at the feet of the statue.
She hears rumors of prisoners tortured for information, and at one point hears screams from a prison cell. She finds a gravely injured man and tries to help him. His injuries are briefly but specifically described. A woman Letta knows gets captured and executed by soldiers.