The novel tells two concurrent stories: that of Wil Parke, who in the very first chapter is abducted by two men out of an airplane bathroom because he's something called the "outlier," and Emily Ruff, a runaway who is scouted by an exclusive school that trains "poets," or people who can peg your specific personality type and use that knowledge and language to control you through words and sounds.
It sounds like a lot to take in, but Barry's writing is crisp and the narrative is easy enough to follow (I'm not a fiction reader who enjoys or understands real convoluted plots, so if I can follow the story, I know it's pretty "follow-able"). The one thing that does get tricky is that the book's timeline jumps around a bit, and sometimes I found that hard to figure out, but as noted, when I read fast (which is how I read fiction, mostly) I don't pay as much attention to detail as I should.
The book was a good read, but it was even better as food for thought about language and privacy rights (with "newsy" interludes sprinkled throughout, like Internet quizzes and items about cover-ups). Trust me, after reading this book, you'll feel slightly differently about taking quizzes in Facebook and that pop up in every browser window (most often pegged to your Google subject searches).
I also enjoyed this book because it gave Mr. CR and I a lot to chat over. Libraries may not own enough copies of this one to make it feasible, but I think it would make a fantastic book club read.
No text snippets from this one, I just want you to read it. But I did enjoy this bit, from the acknowledgments: "And, hey. You. Thanks for being the kind of person who likes to pick up a book. That's a genuinely great thing. I met a librarian recently who said she doesn't read because books are her job and when she goes home, she just wants to switch off. I think we can agree that's as creepy as hell."
*And I owe Mr. CR for the favor: he's the one who requested the book from the library.