the list patricia forde

The List: A Dystopian Novel Best Suited for Middle-Graders

Patricia Forde’s The List is a middle-grade dystopian novel being released today in the United States. It was originally published in the UK and Ireland in 2015 under the title The Wordsmith, and due to popularity, will now be released to those of us in North America (huzzah!). It’s billed as “Fahrenheit 451 meets The Giver for tweens,” and frankly, I don’t think they could have described it better.

The List: A Dystopian Novel Best Suited for Middle-GradersThe List by Patricia Forde
Published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky on August 8th 2017
Genres: Children's Contemporary, Dystopian
Pages: 336
Format: Ebook
Source: Netgalley

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.

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

a sheltered beachside society, the power of language, and a power-hungry dictator

What I liked:

  • I loved the concept of this book. The wordsmith is in charge of keeping track of all of the words, despite the fact that those living in Ark can only use 500 of them (with the list growing shorter as weeks go by due to their psychotic leader). The whimsy of the wordsmith’s job combined with the description of the living quarters was really a big pull for me when reading this book.
  • The dystopian society Forde has created is quite fun. It’s truly a miserable place, though those living in Ark are all under the illusion that it’s for the greater good that they suffer.
  • I enjoyed Forde’s writing for this middle-grade novel. Her language was efficient with a touch of literary, and I think it would be a nice addition to any young reader’s library.

What I wish had been different: 

  • I wish there had more about the Desecrators (those who were against the dystopian system of Ark) and their life. I wanted to know all that they had and what those in Ark were truly missing.
  • The plot resolution was a little lackluster to me. I think a young reader would have enjoyed its ending, but I was hoping for more. What happened to Letta exactly? What about the Desecrators? There were allusions to things happening, but instead of it helping to resolve, it only created more questions for me.


Ultimately, I think this book is one that is best suited for middle-grade readers. It doesn’t translate as well to adults. That being said, if the synopsis appeals to you, or you are big fan of Fahrenheit 451 and/or The Giver, you should definitely give it a try! If you know of a middle-grade reader who loves those books, I would highly recommend purchasing this one for them when it is released!

Do you enjoy dystopian novels? What are your favorites?

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  1. I’ve been eyeing this one recently and I couldn’t decide wether or not to pick it up! I’m thinking I may wait until I can get it as a cheap ebook! 😁 Great review!!

    1. I really appreciate books that use more complicated language for children- I think it’s super beneficial for them! I love that you read books like that when you were a kid.

  2. I enjoy dystopian novels, though not my favourite genre by any means… One that I very much enjoyed, and is a similar kind of premise as this one sounds like, is “The Word Exchange” by Alena Graedon.. people are basically losing their ability to use language because of reliance on technology… there’s a “word flu” that causes affected individuals to lose words to an ultimately catastrophic degree. Horrifying in it’s plausibility…

    1. That does sound like a quiet a similar premise – though the technology bit is different. Sounds totally creepy! I love it!