The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon


Set in the near future, The Word Exchange takes place in a world where print is almost extinct and people can biologically interface with smartphone-like devices called Memes. Anana is searching for her missing father, following a single clue he left behind. She follows a trail which uncovers a secret society and the true intentions of the corporation behind the Meme, all while the English language begins to decay thanks to a “word flu” pandemic.

The way the technology worked and how the word flu spread make me skeptical. I’m not sure if I felt like details were too scarce, if the details weren’t consistent enough, or if I wanted things to be more grounded in reality. Also, the characters seemed flat and one-dimensional. During what should have been signification moments of interaction between characters, I didn’t feel anything for them at all; it felt like filler. Some more background would probably have helped me connect with them.

I did enjoy the way Graedon uses (and tinkers with) language throughout the novel. I wondered if the story would eventually dissolve into gibberish at some point. The premise behind this dystopian world is what kept me turning the pages, and that is what kept me wanting to read more. When it was all over, though, that wasn’t enough to make me feel like I loved this book.

Side note: I’d like to mention that I was thrilled with how Knopf Doubleday handled the footnotes in the e-book version. It was great to never have to leave the page I was currently reading: when I tapped on a footnote’s number, the note was displayed in a small pop-up frame. (I’m not sure if this will be true across all devices, but that’s how the epub worked on my Nook.)

Even though this one fell flat for me…Whatever the future brings when it comes to technology, The Word Exchange will certainly come to mind!

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