The List

384p. Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky. Aug. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781492647966.
Gr 7–10—In this gripping postapocalyptic thriller, a handful of people have survived the Melting, a climate change—induced catastrophe, thanks to the foresight and scientific inventiveness of John Noa and his band of Green Warriors. These survivors now live together in a community known as the Ark, where life is possible but far from pleasant: water and food are strictly rationed, art and music are forbidden, and even speech is stringently controlled. Blaming the Melting on humanity's ability to dissemble, Noa has limited speech to a diminishing number of words kept on an official List—now down to 500 entries—with harsh penalties for those who use unauthorized vocabulary. In a plot that hews closely to YA dystopian tropes, Letta, the brave young protagonist who is charged with helping maintain the List, is a firm believer in Noa's rules until Marlo, a handsome member of the resistance, shows up injured in her shop and shortly thereafter, her master, Benjamin, is reported dead under mysterious circumstances. As she helps Marlo and investigates Benjamin's purported death, Letta uncovers Noa's plan to render humanity completely speechless with the chemical Nicene—a name that calls to mind the Nicene Creed, the doctrine stating Christianity's most fundamental beliefs. Although the underlying premise and certain plot elements sometimes require a large dose of suspended disbelief, ultimately, this new entry into the dystopian field can be enjoyed on many levels. It is a well-crafted page-turner, as well as a compelling commentary on censorship and the role of language, while also inviting discussion about what distinguishes humans from animals.
VERDICT For dystopian fiction aficionados, this well-paced entry offers plenty of food for thought.

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