Words matter and words have a cost. The right words can bring about innovation, revolution. The wrong words can destroy a person’s world. In Gregory Scott Katsoulis‘ All Rights Reserved, words – and any form of expression – are spoken at very high stakes.
Two seconds of screaming costs $1.98
A request to Desist costs $8.99
A charge of Assault costs $14.99
And expressing your Scorn costs 36.99
The story opens with Seth Jime as she prepares to deliver her Last Day speech. At age 15, every person must give a speech on their last day of free speech. After this, every word they speak and most of their actions come at a literal cost. A disaster just before Seth’s speech leaves her too shaken to speak and, without realizing it, Seth’s silence becomes a revolution.
Seth can no longer kiss a boy or shrug her shoulders because those expressions have a cost. Seth can’t ring a doorbell or get a job because she cannot agree to the terms of service. Any slight violation will be transmitted to her cuff and the government will know. If you remove your cuff to avoid charges and then speak uncuffed, you receive a violent physical shock directly to your eyes!
In many ways I think this book should be classified as horror, not YA, because it reveals a form of evil that I could easily see overcoming our society. These costs and copyright restrictions came about as a result of “the Patent Wars [which] were meant to consolidate and aggregate control of innovation in America.” Lawyers – like Silas Rog, the villain of this piece – rule society because they can afford words and they have the ability to destroy somebody’s world with a lawsuit. This isn’t a far stretch, America is already critiqued as one of the most litigious societies in the world.
We see other similarities to our current world with targeted ads Placers promoting products to social influencers Influents, rich boys winning girls by paying for their drinks words, people shortening texts words to save money, discounts on drugs for endorsements speaking the name, and on and on.
So in the end, while this book is a young adult novel about a girl’s journey, it is a love story and it is about a dystopian society, it is, in my humble opinion, primarily a story about the importance of words and expression. We cannot take our freedom – literal and figurative – of speech for granted. We cannot take our right to express ourselves with words and actions for granted. To quote the author, this is a story that shows us why “word matter.”