Author: Max Barry
Description: Early on we meet two seemingly unconnected characters: Wil, who wakes up with people poking around in his brain, then trying to kill him, and Emily, who is recruited to a mysterious school where she may or may not be chosen to learn the art of persuasion. It turns out that words are even more powerful than we ever knew, and certain people can be trained to use them in ways so powerful they seem like magic. As Emily tries to figure out how this works, Wil tries to escape from the “poets” who are relentlessly pursuing him.
Plot: There are lots of flashbacks and flash forwards, and these two characters are unrelated until fairly late in the novel, so I was bewildered for probably at least the first half of the book. When it all comes together, though, it’s remarkable. Now I just need to read it again.
Characters: It’s tough to sort out the good guys from the bad guys at first (another reason the book is so confusing), but the characters are fascinating, and the idea of a select few people being so persuasive they can virtually tell anyone to do anything is not as far from reality as we might think.
Writing style: Fast-paced, gritty, tantalizing in handing out clues to what’s going on.
Audience: It’s a literary thriller.
Wrap-up: My top book of 2013. Aside from being surprising, original, and dizzyingly fast-moving, it’s just plain fun to read. 5/5*