The Memory Book by Lara Avery
Published by Poppy
Published on July 5th 2016
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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.
I had high expectations for The Memory Book. Sammie is someone going through a rare case of dementia, a disease that will probably take her life before she reaches her twenties. This book is supposed to be a record for her to be able to keep track of her life before she forgets. As you can imagine, I went into this expecting a book that was very emotionally charged and moving to read.
As I said, it should have been. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Sammie is a senior in high school who wants to go to college and likes debate and…that’s about it. She’s a very strong character, determined to keep it together and she goes through one of the worst things that can happen to someone in life. As such, she’s a very one-track-minded protagonist, which is admirable and understandable (at times). But she’s not very relatable on the whole. All of the flaws she recognizes in herself really frustrated me throughout the book, and there just weren’t enough strengths in her character for her to be someone I liked reading. As the book is in first person, reading this was rather painful to get through because I was way further into Sammie’s head than I ever wanted to get.
I think Avery was trying to go for a slightly awkward, slightly quirky girl who was forced to have a perspective on an awful situations. You know, “quirky” protagonists are all the rage these days (smh). And sometimes this kind of works:
You don’t have to be a robot, Future Sam. What you’re doing doesn’t have to be going toward something. Sometimes you can stop, or at least pause. Sometimes you can just be.
But it just didn’t work in the long run. It’s not that there are any specific lines that I can pick out, but being around Sam’s character was just exhausting. She overthinks everything past the point of being endearing. She basically just stays in her room all the time she’s home, and we never even get to meet her family properly (aside from a few parental conversations of them being worried and Sam being “strong.” Read: little-to-no emotional catharsis with the family). How is it that there are less than two interactions with her THREE sibilings. THREE SIBLINGS. That’s a LOT of room for character development and feelings and people interactions, and we just get nothing! There are times when her family is addressed, but I didn’t see enough interaction for it to be believable.
I went into this book expecting to love Sammie, Stuart, Cooper, and whoever else showed up. But coming out of it, I only really liked Cooper, and the love plot wasn’t even that believable, though I do think it was endearing. On the other hand, Stuart thinks he’s like a saint or something (but at least +1 for non-white representation??), and goodness knows why Sam likes him. I appreciate that the Stuart plotline was believable and realistic, but at the end of the day, that isn’t enough.
I also expected more from Maddie. The book doesn’t quite explain their relationship very well at any point in time, and it’s not just that Sam’s perspective is flawed. At first they’re best friends, but then it seems like they’re just debate partners, and then they’re best friends, and then Maddie’s like the worst person ever??? Her character just wasn’t fleshed out well enough, so the interactions between them felt very strange. At times, I wasn’t sure even Lara Avery knew how the Sammie and Maddie felt about each other. But at least Maddie and I can agree on one thing:
Me: I think. Like I stress you out?”
Maddie (pauses): Kind of. You’re just really intense.
Me: That’s not my problem.
Sammie stresses me out. There just were not enough saving graces to this book. The writing tried really hard to be quirky and emotional, but it ended up just being annoying and unrelatable.
Long story short, this book was a huge disappointment. I expected to laugh and cry and be moved, and all I got was a zit on my face and a crick in my neck from shaking my head too much.
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