Published by Hachette on 7/5/16
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Death & Dying
My content rating: YA (Characters have sex, Themes of death and dying)
They tell me that my memory will never be the same, that I'll start forgetting things. At first just a little, and then a lot. So I'm writing to remember.
Sammie was always a girl with a plan: graduate at the top of her class and get out of her small town as soon as humanly possible. Nothing will stand in her way--not even a rare genetic disorder the doctors say will slowly start to steal her memories and then her health. What she needs is a new plan.
So the Memory Book is born: Sammie's notes to her future self, a document of moments great and small. It's where she'll record every perfect detail of her first date with longtime crush, Stuart--a brilliant young writer who is home for the summer. And where she'll admit how much she's missed her childhood best friend, Cooper, and even take some of the blame for the fight that ended their friendship.
Through a mix of heartfelt journal entries, mementos, and guest posts from friends and family, readers will fall in love with Sammie, a brave and remarkable girl who learns to live and love life fully, even though it's not the life she planned.
As you can tell from the title of this post, I’m admitting right from the start that I’m the black sheep when it comes to this book. Most people seemed to love it. Me, not so much. I wanted to love it. I loved the concept and the unique format – I just didn’t actually enjoy reading it very much. Here’s why:
What Fed My Addiction:
- The concept. I’d never even heard of Niemann-Pick Type C before I read this book, so I found the topic fascinating (in a very sad way). In the book, Sammie is losing her memory and starts suffering from many other health issues from the disease, such as balance issues and seizures. The disease itself is rare but completely heartbreaking. It’s often compared to alzheimer’s because of the effects on memory, and the idea of slowly losing your memory (and knowing that the memory loss is going to happen) is incredibly sad.
- The format. The book is actually Sammie’s journal to herself to help her remember her life and her experiences. Occasionally someone else writes in it too (which is almost even more interesting). The absolute best part of this format is that we get to see Sammie’s deterioration directly through some of the journal entries where she just isn’t able to think coherently anymore. Those entries were the most impactful of the whole book because the reader could directly see what was happening to Sammie instead of her just telling about it.
What Left Me Wanting More:
- I felt … nothing (mostly). This was definitely my biggest issue with the book. For some reason, despite the incredibly sad circumstances of this book, I didn’t actually feel sad while reading it. I think most of this was due to my complete lack of connection with the main character. Sammie had a sort of strangely detached voice in her notes to herself. Since she didn’t want to fall prey to emotion, she talked about her situation relatively matter-of-factly. And then every once in awhile, she would just say that she was suddenly in tears over her illness – but it seemed to come out of nowhere and we were simply told she cried. I didn’t actually sense any of the emotion in her narration, so it was more like a piece of information to me. Oh, I guess Sammie must have been sad. After all, she was just crying. And, while I felt sorry for Sammie, I didn’t like her all that much, if I’m being honest. (And then I’d feel guilty for not liking her because the girl was dying for goodness sake!) Her refusal to give up on her dreams even when the odds were stacked against her was commendable in some ways, but it was also a bit tiring. I could understand why she didn’t want to face reality, why it was much easier to move on as usual and pretend nothing bad was happening to her, but once again, it just left me feeling a whole lot less moved by the whole situation. I don’t know – obviously most other people didn’t have this trouble with the book, but I just could not connect, and I ended up feeling let-down.
- Love triangle. To make things worse there was a love triangle between Sammie and her longtime crush Stuart and her ex-friend Cooper. Stuart was almost too good to be true and Cooper was a romanticized, misunderstood boy who was high all the time. Um, just no. (Though I will say Cooper’s small part in Sammie’s journal is the one and only thing that brought tears to my eyes.) And there was cheating involved. Sigh.
Like I said, most people loved this book and felt like it was incredibly emotionally impactful (almost all of my blogger friends gave it five stars). I simply wasn’t feeling it, for some reason. I needed more emotional connection and less emotional explanation, but that’s just me. I’m still a fan of Avery – I really enjoyed A Million Miles Away, so I’ll definitely be checking out her future books. In the end I gave this one 2/5 stars.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via BEA16 in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
About the Author:
Hi! I’m Lara, and I like taking walks, being alone, and appetizers.
I’m the author of a few Young Adult books. My fiction and non-fiction has appeared in Bennington College’s anthology plain china: Best Undergraduate Writing of 2009, The Onion AV Club, ARTNews, and Women In Clothes (Blue Rider Press 2014).
After being born and raised as a giant basketball player in Topeka, Kansas, I ran away to study film, cultural studies, and creative writing at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. I now live in Minneapolis, where I am still a giant but without the basketball skills.
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A personal note on my most recent work The Memory Book: though the characters are fictional, Niemann Pick Type C is real disease, affecting real families. Please take a minute to learn more about them.