All Rights Reserved (Word$#1), by Gregory Scott Katsoulis
Publish Date: August 29, 2017
Published by: Harlequin Teen
Genre: YA Dystopian
My Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3 out of 5 stars)
**I received this as an ARC at BookCon 2017 in return for an honest review.**
Trigger Warnings (No Spoilers): suicide, implied/attempted rape
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.
The premise of this book immediately sparked my interest when I first read about it. A future in which every word and gesture is considered intellectual property and must therefore be paid for, putting many into crippling debt and severely separating the wealthy from the poor, only for an act of silence to make everything start to change? Please, tell me more.
The story begins right off the bat with Speth making her decision to stay silent within the first few chapters of the book, and then it slowly builds from there. It’s not a dragging kind of build though, but enough to keep the pace moving while also building the world around her in great detail. It kept my attention throughout the story, and kept my mind constantly thinking about the circumstances of the world Katsoulis has depicted, and how it easily reflects on society today.
Speth, the narrator, was a little hard for me to swallow at first. Her decision to stay silent felt like she didn’t really think it through when she did it, and that it was mostly for the selfish reason of having control over one thing. And while I can applaud that, she didn’t really think through the consequences of her action too much, nor did she really seem to care at first what it meant when others started doing the same. It also didn’t help that the entire time before her ceremony where she made the decision to be silent, she kept thinking about how she used to be excited to become an official adult and start paying for her words and gestures, so this sudden 180 flip in her way of thinking even seemed strange to her. It took a while for her character to build up, and for me to start liking her a bit, but she was very self-centered for most of the story, worrying only about herself and her family and the issues they specifically faced as a result of her silence, and only slowing realizing the effects it was having on the rest of the city.
The other characters were interesting, and many were portrayed well through Speth’s narrative, showing her observations of their behaviors and allowing the reader to garner the subtext of there character easily. Several other characters, however, felt evil for the sake of being evil and did not really show much else besides selfish greed. And while there are people who are definitely like that, in this book it was just a little too cartoon-villain for me.
I would also like to say that I absolutely love that there is no romance in this book – at least, none that seems to be requited. Speth gains the fancy of a boy, but she feels absolutely nothing for him other than friendship, and I’m not going to lie, it was kind of refreshing to read that. On the other hand, there was another female character who was clearly in love (or in fatuation) with this boy and he was completely oblivious, but who knows, maybe that might actually go somewhere in the next book.
Speaking of the next book, I do want to say that I feel like the ending of this book fell a little flat. While there was no epic cliffhanger, for which I might have screamed, it also didn’t really feel like a satisfying conclusion. It’s on the brink of, hey you could go on, or you could end it there, but really either or is okay. I just felt like I was missing something, that final punch, at the end.
Overall, though, it was definitely an entertaining read with a great take on how capitalism and the desire to find ways of making wealth in any kind of manner can easily corrupt the world, and puts a whole new definition to what it means to have Freedom of Speech. While the narrator, Speth, wasn’t entirely my favorite, the premise of the world she lives in and her determination to remain silent no matter what in order to prove her real worth definitely made for a great read. I would definitely recommend this if you enjoy dystopian novels, especially of the sort like Disruption by Jessica Shirvington.
EDIT: I’ve decided after some thought to push this rating down to a 3 stars. After having had time to let the narrative and writing sink in, I just don’t feel as enamored with this story as I seem to have been when I first wrote this review. The characters were rather bland now that I think of it, or in Speth’s case kind of annoying and selfish. And while I still stand by my statement that the concept of the story was definitely intriguing, I don’t actually think the overall plotline was a great as it potentially could have been.
ARC August | Books Completed Toward Goal: 6/12