The List Review
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Unabridged Digital Audiobook
Runtime: 8 hours, 10 minutes
Read by Imogen Wilde

From the time we’re young children, we understand the importance of words. We learn to speak them, to read them, and to write them—to help us communicate and express ourselves. But in the audio edition of The List by author Patricia Forde, one community believes it can prevent disaster by suppressing language.

The story takes place in the post-apocalyptic city of Ark, where all of society is carefully governed and controlled—everything from food and water to the language. The people of Ark are allowed a vocabulary of just 500 words—everyone, that is, but the wordsmith, Benjamin, and his young apprentice, Letta. Together, Benjamin and Letta are responsible for maintaining the words on the List—and for collecting words and recording the language as it once was. But when Benjamin dies unexpectedly, Letta is forced to take over—and she realizes that it’s up to her to protect the language from those who want to suppress it.

For the most part, The List fits rather neatly within the category of dystopian novels for young readers—like a preteen The Hunger Games or Divergent. It’s the story of a community that’s trying to find a new way of life after the old ways led to tragedy and destruction—and here, in Ark, under the leadership of John Noa, the people have found a way to rebuild. As long as they follow the rules and do their job, everything should work out—but, of course, that’s never how things play out, and the young wordsmith soon discovers that life in Ark isn’t as neat and orderly as it may seem.

The setting is appropriately gritty, and the tone is tense—because while life in Ark may have settled into its routines, it’s clear that any misstep will lead to punishment or, even worse, banishment from the community. That gives the whole story that feeling that trouble is lurking around every corner—and, of course, as it turns out, that’s probably true.

Still, while it has some of the same themes and the same ideas as other books like it, this isn’t just another post-apocalyptic thriller. It’s suspenseful and dramatic, but it also has a lot to say about the importance of language. There’s something a little more intellectual about the story and its meaningful message—and there’s something a little more thoughtful about its young heroine. And while Letta may start out as a timid girl who believes everything that she’s told, the growing threats to the things she holds most dear—her master and their words—turn her into a strong and determined young character who’s willing to fight for what she believes in.

The List is another intriguing literary adventure for young readers who enjoy the grit and tension of a dystopian teen thriller. It isn’t quite as action-packed as some others in the genre, but it’s a brainy tale that will remind readers about the importance of the words they use every day.

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