The Word Exchange

The Word Exchange: A Novel - Alena Graedon

This was a great debut by Alena Graedon. It is advertised as a dystopian novel and while I do agree with that I feel like it is a bit different than a pure dystopian novel. This novel starts off some years in the future when books are out of print and people are relying on electronic devises called Memes to do everyday things for us. Memes are kind of like a super smart smartphone.


This follows Anana Johnson (yes, that is her first name) a woman who works with her father at the North American Dictionary of the English Language (NADEL), one the last dictionaries to be in print. Anana's father suddenly goes missing one day and Anana tries to find out where he is with the help of Bart, a co-worker and friend from NADEL. After he father goes missing a sudden pandemic of a new disease called 'word flu' is sweeping the country.


I loved the format of this book. Each chapter was a letter of the alphabet and the book was broken into three parts, thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. Each chapter included a word starting with the letter that the chapter was and a definition for that word. The names of the three parts of the book (thesis, antithesis, and synthesis) really go well with the book as it does mention some philosophy, especially Hegel (Warning: I don't know much about philosophy and/or Hegel. I took a class my first year in college and didn't understand anything, so if I mention something in my review about philosophy it might very well not be correct. So bare with me.).


I really liked that this book sometimes alternated between Anana's and Bart's point-of-view. Well that is until Bart's point-of-view became hard to read at times (it seemed to give me a headache at points). Eventually I seemed to get used to Bart's parts.


I liked the message that this book was sending about technology and communcation. The message that Graedon is trying to send to readers has been written about before but I felt like Graedon did is in a fresh and unique way.


Even though this is fiction I felt like some things in this book, especially about the 'word flu' were a bit unrealistic. How it was contracted and how it spread seemed a bit unrealistic. It was still fascinating to read about nonetheless.


I absolutely loved the ending of this book. The mission that Anana is on to spread her story and what happens with Bart made me tear up. Ultimately I felt like this was a unique semi-dystopian novel with a fresh take on the dangers of expanding technology and the loss of basic communication. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the galley.