Thursday 8 February 2018

All Rights Reserved (Word$ #1), Gregory Scott Katsoulis

My silence meant something. It was a protest. I owned it.
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, for every nod, for every scream and even every gesture of affection. 

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. Rather than read her speech—rather than say anything at all—she closes her mouth and vows never to speak again, sparking a movement that threatens to destroy her, her family and the entire city around them

* * * * 
4 / 5

It's been several years since dystopia was the go to genre for the upcoming YA author and, upon seeing All Rights Reserved, I thought that enough time had passed for me to brave this book. And damn, it was good! I've read a lot of dystopias in my time but never anything quite like this. Yeah, maybe it had a few kinks in the plot that could have been smoothed out, a few hallmarks of a new author, but these are easily forgiven.

Speth Jimes, she of the unfortunately cheap name, is moments away from her fifteenth birthday party where she is contractually obliged to speak the words of her Last Day speech and enter adulthood where every word and gesture is trademarked and charged, when she sees her childhood friend commit suicide. In shock, Speth vows never to speak, never to communicate with a trademarked gesture or word, again to prevent her family - her older sister and younger brother - from sliding further and further into debt. 

I knew sorry was always $10 - and a legal admission of guilt

This is a fascinating narrative choice because the lack of speech means that you are very much inside Speth's head all of the time. It's really immersive and her pain at being unable to communicate with her siblings, to let them know what she is doing and why, is hard hitting. I was totally engrossed in this incredibly weird but oddly believable universe, so much so that when I put the book down I found it weird to speak, to realise that virtually ever action I did would, in Speth's world, put me further in a massive sinkhole of debt. The book also incorporates a lot of cool futuristic sci-fi elements, such as eye lenses and fully personalised adverts and curiously hidden people known as Product Placers.  

I knew what I was supposed to do. I was supposed to pretend that I hadn't seen them. But I was slowly realising that I wasn't very good at doing what was expected of me

The book does have a couple of problem issues - the arc involving Speth's older sister is totally bizarre, but I did enjoy it, the one involving her younger brother was, I think, tragically unnecessary and a waste of shock value, and there's this weird love relationship going on. Sometimes Speth is difficult to relate to and her choices seem odd and the writing a touch clunky, but generally I loved Speth's perspective: she's young, afraid, cynical, and genuinely has no idea what to do in this massively messed up universe. She's a lovely character drowning in tragedy who I couldn't help but empathise with. 

Overall, I had my eye on All Rights Reserved for several months before I took the plunge and bought it. I certainly wasn't disappointed. It's got a lot of aspects that dystopian literature should have - social and political commentary, for example - and manages to seem totally new and fantastic.

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