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A Gentle Book about Harsh Times: The List by Patricia Forde

A Gentle Book about Harsh Times: The List by Patricia Forde

The List Patricia Forde-small The List Patricia Forde-back-small

“Extinction is the saddest word,” Letta’s mentor tells her on his deathbed. “You don’t understand. In the old days, before the Melting, no one would listen. No one. The politicians just talked and talked. They used words to keep the people in ignorance.”

A dystopian novel, Patricia Forde’s The List takes place in our world after the polar ice caps have disappeared and sea levels have risen. Letta, our seventeen-year-old heroine, is only an apprentice when she abruptly inherits her master’s position as Wordsmith. Now a member of the elite, she’s one of the few people in the town of Ark who’s allowed to use the full scope of language. Everyone else must speak “List,” 500 words that leader John Noa has approved. (Yes. Letta lives in Noa’s Ark.)

The List doesn’t include words like “hope,” “love,” or “dream.” Noa considers these words too dangerous, since they encourage people to think about the future. Most articles are gone, as well as “Hello,” “Thank you,” and “Please.” People are only allowed to use specialized vocabulary if it’s necessary for them to do their jobs. Art and music of all kinds likewise have been forbidden.

As Wordsmith, Letta prepares basic Lists for Ark schoolchildren and specialized Lists for apprentices. She also thinks it’s part of her job to preserve non-List words so that humans can recover language at some future time, when our ancestors have proven they can handle it responsibly. What she doesn’t know is that Noa destroys her note cards, believing humans must be stripped of language completely.

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