Hello humans! I am so thrilled to be finally writing this book review (it has been one of those reviews that I’ve had sorted in my head for a while but have yet to put metaphorical pen to metaphorical paper). All Rights Reserved is one of the books I read when I was on holiday in Norway at the end of April and as such not only do I have the fond memories of reading a great book, but also the memories of that lovely holiday which just adds sentimental value. But it’s the book you’ve come here to hear about so it’s about time I shared my thoughts!
In a world where every word and gesture is copyrighted, patented or trademarked, one girl elects to remain silent
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. 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. 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.
Of all the dystopian novels I have read, and boy oh boy have there been a lot, this is one of my all-time favourites. This is one of those books that seeps into your life as you’re reading it. I’m not exaggerating in any way when I say that I had to take little breaks from reading this to talk to my husband, just to remind myself that I could talk without fear of going into debt. That’s just how immersed I was in this.
In a book where your main character literally says nothing nor outwardly communicates it would be easy to make her completely unrelatable to the reader. However, Speth’s voice in her internal monologue is so strong that I couldn’t help but relate to her. In a way, I would argue she develops more than characters who use dialogue as everything the reader learns about the character they have to either learn directly from her or infer from context. What I most appreciated about Speth’s character is nothing ever felt forced for her, her decision to not speak comes quite early on in the book, but it is still set up so that it makes sense for her character. Her subsequent actions, though they still have that unlikelihood of any fictional story, nevertheless make sense and her reactions to them are clear, despite the lack of outward communication. This felt a surprisingly believable story for what could have just been a heavy concept book.
I know some people have found the worldbuilding to be a little lacking, I personally don’t recall feeling that way while reading, perhaps because, instead of dealing in large swathes of information, the author opts to put in small details which make the world feel fleshed out. One example of this which struck me was people searching the word market (sort of like the stock market) for cheap words that sound similar to others, to allow them to converse for a lower fee. I can see how some of the larger concepts, such as sponsorship of individuals, weren’t as fleshed out as they could have been, but this still felt like a complete world to me.
Because so much of this book is internalised, there aren’t too many side characters to talk about. I thought that the relationship between Speth and her siblings was well done, again the way they react to certain events feels very true to this specific kind of strange family dynamic. I’ll be interested to see if the side characters get more of a look-in in the later book(s) in the series as I think that would be an interesting perspective to explore.
This is a strong conceptual novel that still manages to pull off some very tricky character-based plot. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a different kind of dystopian novel, one that isn’t focussed on violence or combat (not that there’s anything wrong with those books) but instead explores consumerism and communication. Perhaps afterwards you will, as I did, find yourself measuring how many words you use and trying to guess just how in debt you would be in this world? Definitely not a world this blabbermouth would be able to inhabit safely!
My rating: 5/5 stars
I received a digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
What say you? What kind of dystopian novels do you enjoy? Let me know in the comments below!