Five Seven Five (The Boy with Words, Book One), by C.E. Wilson

I previously featured C.E. Wilson in an author spotlight when her previous YA book To Nowhere came out. The story was about a girl named Lyris who wandered through some kind of portal into a world of giants who sell humans as some kind of exotic pets. I gave the book five stars for its unique plot, characters with clear objectives, and strong themes of communication, trust, and people being pretty much the same all over. I enjoyed the book thoroughly, so I was thrilled when her newest book recently came out.

The first-person narrator of this story is White Frost, and it’s clear that she’s somewhat disillusioned by her life. All she’s ever known is the dark passageways where her society lives. Only the “Chosen Ones,” of which her cousin Shade is one, are allowed to venture beyond their zones to retrieve the supplies they’ll need for the month—without taking more than needed or anything that will be missed. This society lives in fear of being seen by their Creators, or at least that’s what their President insists.

Except that White’s not fully buying it. Her cousin has been giving her thick papers with scribbled words on it. She wants to know what some of those mysterious words—sky, rain, clouds—mean.

Sounds like this society’s dystopian, doesn’t it? Nothing wrong with that. In fact, the world White and her people inhabit is described well enough for the reader to come up with plausible theories borrowed from some other YA dystopian novels. Some sort of war or other event that made the surface inhabitable? Though she doesn’t explicitly say they’re underground in the beginning, it seems that way. Unless you’ve read enough of Wilson’s other works, you’ll be just as surprised as White is when you learn the reason, so I won’t spoil it.

White chooses to leave after her life is upturned. Another girl had wandered to the outside through a crack in a wall, and the Chosen Ones (including White’s cousin) went to retrieve her to tragic results. Though the exact details of this event are not revealed, the tone indicates the horrific nature of it. Knowing what’s outside, I can imagine a few grisly scenarios.

After getting some information from her cousin’s colleague Salt (who harbors a crush on her), White ventures through the crack of light beyond Zone Eleven—the farthest district in their society—and discovers a much larger world than she ever imagined existed.

It’s there where she meets a boy named Kes, and it’s here where I’m going to stop summarizing the plot. You just have to trust this review and get yourself a copy and read it. You may think you have it pegged as just another YA dystopian novel, but it is SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT.

But I can talk theme and overall impact. As much as I enjoyed Wilson’s previous work, this one is much more strongly developed and executed. White is a wonderful narrator, and seeing this story through her eyes is such a pleasant, inspiring, and profound experience. She’s innately curious. She’s not afraid to go after what she wants. She has a believable vulnerable side. But most of all, she views this new world outside with so much wonder and awe that it’s difficult to come away without feeling like we take our world for granted. The way White describes mundane, everyday experiences—and the way Wilson writes it—is simply brilliant and beautiful. This is an impressive collection of words.

Words. The name of this series is The Boy with Words. I won’t tell you what that or Five-Seven-Five mean, but the power of WORDS is a recurring theme in the book. Just as the book made me feel that we take the world for granted, the book also made me think we take words for granted. Why is it called rain? It seems like a somewhat arbitrary term, but someone (or several someones) assigned it that word long ago. Now that word has power, and it can conjure up images or memories. String several words together and you’ve created stronger, deeper images. Seeing White develop her appreciation of words is just as enjoyable as seeing her develop an appreciation for the world outside, and this is a great way to show her character growth.

My only quibble is that the story isn’t over. There’s a heartbreaking cliffhanger at the end, so be prepared for it. I’ve mentioned in other reviews about cliffhangers being earned if there’s at least a closed story or character arc. I’m not sure if there really is, but in this case, I don’t mind it the least because it really is a strong enough moment to make me desperate for the sequel. I want to know more details about the tragic incident. I want to know more about the Creator’s “scriptures.” And I want to know all the details—no spoiler here—about how Kes and White’s societies diverged. There’s a lot of directions the sequel could go, and I can’t wait for it.

This book has a great heart, mind, and soul. You’ll feel and think. On a scale of five stars, I’d like to give it seven, so Five Seven Five has earned its FIVE stars.

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Five Seven Five is available at Amazon.

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