Benjamin is the wordsmith in Ark. He is charged with managing the List, a set of 500 words that residents can use to communicate, and with collecting stray words that are now banned from use. He's also guardian to Letta, a young girl whose parents left Ark when she was a young girl. She is also his apprentice. When Benjamin doesn't return from a trip and is found dead, John Noa appoints her Wordsmith and tasks her with shortening the List by removing words from circulation. Noa believes words are corrupt, but not everyone agrees. A group of rebels (called "Desecrators" by Noa) is staging pop-up events around Ark to remind people of art, poetry, and beauty, and Noa wants them stopped!
When Marlo, an injured Desecrator, shows up in the Wordsmith's shop looking for a place to hide, Letta's world is turned upside down. She knows she should turn the boy into the gavvers, but instead chooses to risk her life to help him. In making this choice, Letta starts to wonder about Noa's intentions, and questions what is happening.
As a self-proclaimed word nerd, I found the story fascinating. The plot is original and intriguing, with arguments for and against words that underlie the premise and can be easily grasped by readers. While Noa and Amelia seem to be somewhat stereotypical villains, Letta has much more depth and individuality. I also like the way other characters are introduced: spaced apart with enough time for readers to absorb a bit about them before meeting someone new.
The setting is post-apocalyptic, with the Melting being the result of Global Warming. In this new world with no technology, the story has an "old world" feel to it. I can almost envision an 18th or 19th century village. There are several threads of mystery (purposefully left out of the summary) with a few twists and well-paced suspense. Nothing overly scary or gory, though there are references to violence that happens "offstage."
Science fiction lovers - even those who aren't into words - will find this an engaging, thought-provoking, and fun story.
A fresh, engaging story that will have readers of all ages thinking about friendship, choices, and even words! Letta and Marlo will bring you into their worlds and give you plenty to enjoy!
There are several violent events that are confrontations between characters. There is a reference to torture, but it is not described in detail. Also be aware that Amelia is a disabled character who uses her disability to manipulate Letta and garner sympathy.
This is the first title in a 2-book series where words are used for power and control and shows how they can be corrupting, as well.
Although it is not described in great detail, the Melting is a catastrophic event that was the result of technology and global warming. Book 2 (The Last Lie) goes into deeper detail about what ultimately led to the creation of Ark.
Readers have the opportunity to explore words and word usage from both sides: Marlo and his friends believe that words are for freedom of expression; John Noa believes they are a tool of power, control, and destruction. Through Letta, we see both sides. Is there a right or wrong?
Having read the book, do your readers hear words differently? For example, when they listen to the news, are they "parsing" what is said differently? Do they accept what is said or do they want to go behind the words?
12 and Up
10 and Up
Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™ . Reviewer's Age:
Borrow, though you could end up buying it because you want to make sure your friends read it and you can talk about it.