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Review: Verify by Joelle Charbonneau

Review: Verify by Joelle Charbonneau

‘Meri Beckley lives in a world without lies. When she looks at the peaceful Chicago streets, she feels pride in the era of unprecedented hope and prosperity over which the governor presides.

But when Meri’s mother is killed, Meri suddenly has questions that no one else seems to be asking. And when she tries to uncover her mother’s state of mind in her last weeks, she finds herself drawn into a secret world with a history she didn’t know existed.

Suddenly, Meri is faced with a choice between accepting the “truth” or embracing a world the government doesn’t want anyone to see- a world where words have the power to change the course of a country and where the wrong ones can get Meri killed.’

Verify is an interesting novel with a good and current message at its core, yet I feel that its narrative is and overall story is rather muddled, meaning the message itself loses its impact, particularly as we are told its core idea more than once without seeing much evidence of characters going through the process of understanding it and coming to terms with what it truly means. That many of the high stakes events happen off-screen, as it were, seems to rob the tale of much of its urgency, especially as very little to actively disturb the lives of the characters the reader is introduced to actually happens.

The idea itself is a decent one and one that I believe is important for literature to incorporate given society’s growing dependency on technology and the internet to tell us everything that we need to know, whenever we want clarification or to learn something that we need to. However, it’s the execution of the concept that made me unable to fully invest in it, as I found it very difficult to believe that it would take so short a time for words to supposedly disappear completely from language and for society to stop questioning what they are told. That children would accept everything that they are told in their lessons without forming opinions that have them questioning what they have learnt is the major hurdle that kept me out of sync with the story, for key components of learning are analysing information and points of view and examining evidence. There is almost no point to the exams that the characters sit without these skills. I completely understand the message at the novel’s heart and its relevance, notably as we seem to be staring right at the mistakes of the past and about to make them all over again, given the current political climate and frankly appalling state of affairs as regards the rise in ugly forms of nationalism, yet there are too many plot holes for it to work quite as it’s intended.

The concept of the Stewards is one of the things that kept me reading and something that I wish had taken up more of the novel (I’m hoping we get more about them in a sequel or series). I loved the idea of literature and history having been saved and pooled somewhere and I would really like to see it developed in more depth and used for greater impact in what future instalments are to arrive. Meri’s involvement with them and swift rise to practically being in-charge is something that, again, I found myself rather dubious about, but this stands to be elaborated upon as the rest of the story unfolds.

Verify is read pertinent to today’s issues as regards censorship and manipulation of the media and one I would recommend as a look at what stands to happen through deliberately limiting understanding and presenting a surface image that dissuades people from disturbing that which they have been conditioned to believe is best for them. Thank you Harper 360YA for sending me a copy! Verify is out on September 24th!