My rating: 4 of 5 stars
There are things I absolutely loved about this book and a few things that made me have more questions! The idea behind it is fascinating and I loved how fast paced it is. The concept is brilliant- Max Barry explores a world where advanced WORDS have been discovered that can be used to manipulate people. There’s an academy where handpicked people are taught how to analyze personalities and determine what “section” a person belongs to. Once the section is determined, it reveals a set of words that will compromise the subject and make them do whatever is asked. Of course power like this could be catastrophic if it gets into the wrong hands- which it does, generating the conflict in the book.
For most of the book I was riveted, especially when it was in Elliot and Will’s perspective. I had a harder time connecting with Emily’s perspective for some reason that I can’t peg, but I was still interested enough to keep going, and I’m glad I did. It picks up even more speed the second half.
After each chapter Max Barry inserts a little clip from the news or an online site or something that gives the “cover up explanation” for whatever happened in the previous chapter, which I thought was a very clever way to deliver the information and wrap up each chapter. It leaves the reader with the uneasy feeling like we can’t always trust all the information we are given, which is basically the theme of the book.
I think the part I struggled to keep going along with is actually a side effect of the storyline, so I can’t really fault it-After meeting and falling in love with Harry, Emily’s whole motivation becomes getting back to him because she loves him. But during the part where it shows their relationship, I did’t FEEL their connection which makes it harder to accept it as the springboard for all of her actions. Max Barry portrays it as a bit one-sided on Emily’s part, which is intentional because Harry is immune to that kind of compromise, so I understand why he wrote it that way. And people do behave a crazy ways based on a one-sided love, so logically, I get it. It was just harder for me to wrap my head around her motivation as a reader.
I love love loved the moment I figured out the thing about Will we don’t know in the beginning! I won’t say more than that because I don’t want to spoil it for you, but that was some awesome writing on Max Barry’s part. Very clever indeed Mr. Barry.
The writing isn’t always chronological, which usually makes me not like it as much, but that was not the case with this book. Max Barry did a good job keeping me grounded with the timeframes. Choosing to write it that way added to the shock factor in the middle. The only time it didn’t work for me was that I didn’t get the connection I wanted between Elliot and Charlotte either because everything is explained after the fact.
The only other thing I kept waiting for that I never got was WHY Harry is immune?? What makes him the outlier?? Now I’m just left to wonder forever!
Overall this book was an incredibly clever and fast paced read. I loved learning the little extras of language. There were so many twists! I have no idea how Max Barry came up with this plot! For more sensitive readers, there is quite a bit of language and some sex, so there you have it.