Alison Cofrancesco’s Book Review


Sticks and Stones May Break You’re Bones and Apparently Words Can Also Hurt You

Alison Cofrancesco

“They recruited Emily Ruff from the streets. They said it was because she’s good with words. They’ll live to regret it,”

In an age filled with conspiracy theories and rumors of secret societies, Lexicon A Novel has certainly found its place. The story begins with Emily Ruff, a fifteen year old runaway, who survives through tricking tourists with table card games on the street. Noticed supposedly for her talent to persuade she is approached by a secret society, which she mainly agrees to join for a meal and a home. As we follow Emily’s story, we learn about a behind the scenes organization with members known as poets who are able to manipulate humans simply with their words. These poets learn methods of control based off of human personality types, and tailor their words to control each sect.

Intertwined with Emily’s story is that of Wil Parke, the only survivor of a mysterious natural disaster in a mining town called Broken Hill. He is apprehended by poets, who are particularly interested in his former home. Wil’s thread of the story mainly consists of action and escape, leaving the reader to figure out his significance to the poets and to Emily’s story.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the story is the imperfection of characters, as well as the development. Throughout the story Wil makes decisions completely based on instinct, many of which serve to make his situation worse. In contrast to how heroes are usually portrayed, he has poor natural instinct and reacts how the majority of normal people would, by panicking when put in terrifying situations. This makes it easy of the reader to connect with him.

Max Barry uses his story as a tool to evaluate the way that we use modern language for our own purposes. Throughout the novel, poets use their power of words over people to influence their decisions. This power corrupts the majority of them, even causing some conflict in Emily’s morality. If nothing else, Lexicon serves to evaluate everyday use of power present in our words. The “poets” are not magical or super evolved people. They are just particularly persuasive, a quality found in all people to varying degrees. Even the characters themselves often recognize that the rest of the world uses their methods, however unwittingly. By highlighting the use of words throughout the story, Barry is identifying the words we use as a very powerful tool, even though they are often overlooked as the main cause of manipulation or even corruption.

Along with interesting assertions about morality, this book is generally a fun read. I wouldn’t choose it for someone looking for heavy reading, but it is a really good read when you’re looking to de-stress and dare I say procrastinate during the school year.

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