Thursday, July 7, 2016

Review: The Memory Book - Lara Avery

The Memory Book
Lara Avery
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Alloy Entertainment
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

If giving a book 7 out of 5 stars were acceptable, I'd do it right now. The Memory Book by Lara Avery is one of the most heartfelt, genuinely touching books I've read in a long time. This book is beautifully written; it has characters that are well fleshed out, a plot that is unpredictable in that it encourages denial, and a format that is perfect for the story. Cannot recommend this book enough, and just want to thank Kiersten for grabbing this book for me as an ARC from BEA 2016, which I was unable to attend!

The Memory Book is written as a letter of sorts, from Sammie McCoy present tense to Future Sammie McCoy. Sammie is a second semester high school senior who has just been diagnosed with Niemann-Pick Type C: a condition that causes childhood death, epilepsy, dementia, and all sorts of other sad stuff. Sammie is on track to being the valedictorian of her school, going to NYU, living her dreams in the big city and all that jazz. She's not perfect before the diagnosis either though -- she's bad at social cues and doesn't seem to put any value in friendships. I like that it wasn't just her diagnosis that made her imperfect - Sammie was a whole, three dimensional, tangible character. I can pick out people I know in real life that are kind of like Sammie and I liked so much how her character developed throughout the novel. She starts out heavily in denial about her diagnosis which in my opinion, any teenager about to go to college would be: that's what made it so goddamn heartbreaking.

So Sammie's family plays the role of not being so close to her when the diagnosis arrives to wanting to watch over her like a hawk -- they try, but Sammie is real stubborn and puts herself in dangerous situations with her condition. It's really cool to see her relationship with them progress both in a way similar to most teenagers the summer before college and also incredibly different because of her diagnosis.

Other characters include Sammie's old best friend Coop, her current crush, Stuart Shah (s/o to when a romantic interest is so obviously not a white boy), and sort-of-friend/acquaintence Maddie. Honestly, every single one of these characters were so well developed, they each had a unique voice that shone through despite the fact that this book is written as a letter from Sammie to herself. They all had interesting character traits and genuinely developed from flaws they exhibited earlier in the book without changing completely. All the characters do some unexpected stuff and even though you can feel some sort of climax approaching, the book encourages denial and hope and all sorts of feelings so you're never /quite/ sure what is coming.

The format of the book is really cool too, with Sammie writing to her future self in a word doc that she carries everywhere. It has come inclusions from other people and the PoV makes it really insightful into what she's thinking but also, like I mentioned before, still gives each character a thoughtful and unique voice, which is hard to do in first person narratives.

The idea behind the book itself is incredibly original and in my opinion, the plot is beautifully structured. Lara Avery is an amazing storyteller -- I haven't cried while reading a book in a very, very long time and this book did just the trick. I can't wait to see anything else Lara Avery has written because at this point, I'd read her grocery lists. This is absolutely one of the best books I've ever reviewed, and you shouldn't hesistate to read it now. Or read it yesterday.
- Amrutha

If you were losing your memory, what would you want to remember most?
Let us know in the comments!

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