“Words matter. Words make ideas. They preserve truths and history. They express freedom and they shape it. Words mold our thoughts. That gives them value and power.”
In the future, lawyers have realized they can put copyrights on things as basic as words, and now, on each individual’s fifteenth birthday, they are given a device that tracks every word they speak or gesture they make – and charges them exorbitantly for it.
On Speth’s fifteenth birthday, she realizes she doesn’t want to be sucked into this life, so she decides to do the unthinkable: she adopts silence as her protest. Lawyers everywhere are enraged, and Speth suddenly finds her entire world turned upside down as the world around her attempts to punish her for her nonconformity.
✘ the good
– The plot of this book is so unique, and unlike anything I’ve ever read before. A world in which people are charged for every word they speak, every nod or sigh, every kiss or hug – it’s honestly a little bit terrifying to even think of, especially as the story goes on to explain that people who go too far into debt are basically forced into indentured slavery to the government.
– I loved the sci-fi aspects of the story, such as the ocular lenses everyone was forced to wear that could shock them for transgressions, or the Ads that were custom-tailored to the potential customers walking by at any given time. So many features in the story just felt so innovative!
– The Product Placers. I assumed from the very beginning that they would be important, given how much Speth was fascinated by them, so I was pretty pleased when they recruited her onto their team. Kel, Henri, and Margot are all such fun and sweet characters, plus I was especially fond of the scenes in which Speth was getting her feet under her and learning the ropes. The missions the team were sent on just sounded so intense and fun, and I am a sucker for the whole “lonely/misunderstood MC finds a group of misfit friends to become their family” trope.
✘ the bad
– Speth. This poor, sad child… sigh. I mean, the very first decision she makes in the entire book is so astonishingly poorly thought out that I just thought, certainly, she would have to progress in an upward fashion as the story continued… right? Nope.
She makes one poor decision after another, and by the end of the book, I honestly was just wishing someone would scream at her until she finally grasped the severity of the stupid, reckless, and terrible choices she made.
– Despite being a first-person narration style, I had a very hard time connecting to Speth emotionally. The story as a whole drew me in, and I found myself feeling attached to other characters at times, but I think the complete lack of dialogue from Speth makes her really hard to relate to. She constantly caused emotional duress to others through her silence, when they needed her to speak, and that made it really hard to view her as anything beyond this calloused and aloof child.
– Without trying to spoil too much, there’s a serious story arc of exploiting someone’s feelings to use them (and it’s such a sweet character who gets hurt, at that!), and then it’s just… never really called out? There are no actual repercussions, and very little remorse, seemingly.
– Again, no spoilers, but there is a heartbreaking turn of events towards the end of the book that made me want to throw my kindle and never, ever finish this story. I literally made a Goodreads status that basically said there are books that can break your heart and make you love them more, and then there are books that go for the Big Traumas and just piss you the hell off. This incident was the latter scenario.
– The ending leaves a lot of things unexplained, and the story is wrapped up in an incredibly unrealistic and rushed manner. I know it’s the first book in a series, but the story would have been better to leave off on a cliffhanger than to rush through the last few chapters the way it did.
This was actually an incredibly anticipated read for me, and I thought I would love it and totally fly through it; sadly, though, it just didn’t cut it for me. If you’re particularly into dystopian titles like I am, I would say pick it up, give it a chance, and it may be much more enjoyable for you than it was for me! As far as I’m concerned, though, I’ll pass on continuing the series.
Thank you to Harlequin Teen and Edelweiss for providing me with an ARC of this book. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own!