In the not-so-distant future, the forecasted “death of print” has become a reality. Bookstores, libraries, newspapers, and magazines are things of the past, and we spend our time glued to handheld devices called Memes that not only keep us in constant communication but also have become so intuitive that they hail us cabs before we leave our offices, order takeout at the first growl of a hungry stomach, and even create and sell language itself in a marketplace called the Word Exchange.
Anana Johnson works with her father, Doug, at the North American Dictionary of the English Language (NADEL), where Doug is hard at work on the last edition that will ever be printed. Doug is a staunchly anti-Meme, anti-tech intellectual who fondly remembers the days when people used email (everything now is text or videoconference) to communicate—or even actually spoke to one another, for that matter. One evening, Doug disappears from the NADEL offices, leaving a single written clue: ALICE. It’s a code word he devised to signal if he ever fell into harm’s way. And thus begins Anana’s journey down the proverbial rabbit hole . . .
My sister gave me this book for Christmas, I admit though, that I found it in a local book shop pre-Christmas and Ev was at a loss of what to give me so here we are! The blurb instantly grabbed my interest. No that I’ve finished the book wasn’t really what I expected however Alena Graedon’s The Book exchange did not disappoint at all.
The book follows the story of Anana, she works with her father, Doug, at the North American Dictionary of the English language, in a world where books, libraries and newspapers are a thing of the past. They are working on the last edition to ever be printed, that is until one night when Doug disappears all together leaving a one word clue: ALICE. A code he devised with his Anana in case he ever got into harms way. This sends Anana with her friend and colleague Bart on a journey to find him. They find more than they bargain for though and get tied up in a series of events which could mean the destruction of society as they knew it.
The Word Exchange is set in the point of view of Anana, it reads almost like a recount of events rather than ‘in the present time’ story, throughout there are a number of chapters which read like diary entries of the character Bart. This way of story telling, to me, was very effective. The style of writing made it seem all the more real and helped me to connect with the two main characters.
The premiss for the story being a future on earth where books and reading have become nearly unheard was something that, as a book lover, really hit home with me, and in all honesty, scared me a little to. Especially as I read on to discover the Meme, a device used in it’s most basic function as a phone, but then it is so much more than that. With the ability to do mostly everything, including calling a taxi if the owner so wants. The devices left humanity in an almost impersonal interactions, with only a few main characters not using them, including Bart and Doug. What seemed to shock me the most though was the fact of how real this situation could become in our world, and how perfectly Graedon has twisted something that is so normal in our lives and made them bad.
I have seriously loved every moment I’ve spent reading The Book Exchange, there is the perfect combination of suspense with cliff hangers broken up by the differing points of view, with a balance of plot twists where I found my self having to close the book on my hand, hoping the characters would change their minds. When I finished I literally just sat for a bit, and I was grinning from ear to ear! Quite literally!
I definitely recommend this as it is a very, very good read, it was gripping until the end and I got completely and utterly immersed in that world. Though it’s not the most relaxing read, it was all very exciting with a very intricate story line from two points of view. Which for me was perfect, I’d much prefer to be on the edge of my seat than everything be perfect and relaxed, so if you’re anything like me in that sense then you should definitely give The Word Exchange a read!
Thanks for reading!