I picked this up at YALC because it looked so interesting. A world where every word is restricted, and you have to pay for any form of expression? Plus it talks about copyright? I am sold. I also wanted a dystopian standalone, which the staff at the Harper stand said it was. Actually, it does have a sequel, but it doesn’t read like it’s reliant on the sequel, so I’m still happy with what I got.
In a world where every word and gesture is copyrighted, patented or trademarked, one girl elects to remain silent rather than pay to speak, and her defiant and unexpected silence threatens to unravel the very fabric of society.
Speth Jime is anxious to deliver her Last Day speech and celebrate her transition into adulthood. The moment she turns fifteen, Speth must pay for every word she speaks (“Sorry” is a flat ten dollars and a legal admission of guilt), for every nod ($0.99/sec), for every scream ($0.99/sec) and even every gesture of affection. She’s been raised to know the consequences of falling into debt, and can’t begin to imagine the pain of having her eyes shocked for speaking words that she’s unable to afford.
But when Speth’s friend Beecher commits suicide rather than work off his family’s crippling debt, she can’t express her shock and dismay without breaking her Last Day contract and sending her family into Collection. Backed into a corner, Speth finds a loophole: rather than read her speech–rather than say anything at all–she closes her mouth and vows never to speak again. Speth’s unexpected defiance of tradition sparks a media frenzy, inspiring others to follow in her footsteps, and threatens to destroy her, her family and the entire city around them.
I was probably expecting more from this than I should have. The premise is really interesting, but flimsily constructed. It felt a lot like Vox, with its emphasis on communication, but without the underlying gender-based discrimination. But it lacked the subtlety and understanding of Vox, instead going for a general ‘capitalism is terrible and has gotten out of control’ vibe.
That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy this. I definitely did. I think the original premise could have been much better explained or supported – but I suppose being an intellectual property nerd does mean that I was much more critical of this than most would be. But once you got past that, this was an interesting, and well-constructed story which followed a typical dystopia arc.
Young girl does something which unintentionally sparks a revolution, discovers the power within herself to break down the system, meets new people and learns new things along the way… It’s been done, but this was certainly an interesting way of doing it. The underlying musings on communication and the need to express oneself were also pretty well drawn, and kept me entertained.
Overall, I think this book didn’t work for me specifically because a) I’ve read so much dystopia I’m tired of it and b) I’m an intellectual property nerd already, but if you were lacking those two factors, this would be a great read. It’s certainly an interesting and entertaining entry into the dystopian genre, and I would definitely be interested in reading other works by this author.