Book Review: ‘The Memory Book’ by Lara Avery

July 8, 2016     Holly     Reviews

Book Review: ‘The Memory Book’ by Lara AveryThe Memory Book by Lara Avery
Published by Alloy Entertainment on July 5, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 368
Format: ARC, Kindle Edition
Source: Review Copy
4 Stars

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.

The Memory Book by Lara Avery was a delightful and heartbreaking surprise of a novel. Going into it, I wasn’t really sure just where I was going to fall on the love-it-or-hate-it scale, especially after my experience with Avery’s other novel A Million Miles Away, but I am totally team LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS now. Avery crafted a real gem with this novel, and I think there are a lot of people who will fall in love with Sammie and her story the way I did.

What’s different about The Memory Book is how the story is told. It reads as a diary, rather than an actual novel, and while Sammie is the main author there are guest entries from friends and family members. Each entry shows the personality of each character, even the one’s who only have an entry or two. But the fact that the majority of the book is written through Sammie, reader’s are really given a look into how her battle with Niemann-Pick Disease (NPC, from here on out) affects her life and, eventually, her story. Sections go from the writing of an above-average intelligence young girl, to that of what appears to be a small child who hasn’t properly learned grammar or spelling. This layer of realism adds an extra emotional punch to the story.

But I’ll be honest, you’ve got to get past the first couple of chapters. When I first dug into The Memory Book, I was feeling very turned off by Sammie. Partially because I didn’t fully understand her situation with NPC, but also because I couldn’t really connect with her. Sammie is the type of person I never got along with in school – too driven, too consumed with a need to be the best. But as I learned more and more about Sammie, and the progression of her NPC, I found out that there is so much more to her than being at the top of everything. Sammie’s funny and quirky and deeply confused about who and what she really wants to be once she’s faced with the very real situation her life becomes.

Even though I felt a real connection with Sammie, however, I found myself getting much more emotional (and when I say emotional, I mean the last 10 or so pages KILLED ME) over the sections written by the other character’s in the novel. In a way, reading through Sammie in The Memory Book gets you accustomed and more accepting of NPC, because Sammie finds herself feeling that way. But the other character’s don’t necessarily experience this same growth and the added emotion really gets to you.

A downfall was the romance of the novel, which at times felt forced and unnecessary, especially as the love triangle developed. But that’s not to say I wasn’t pleased with the outcome or that I disliked either Stuart or Cooper. Their interactions with Sammie are still some of the best parts of The Memory Book.

All in all, and granted I have no personal experience with NPC, I felt like Avery’s book was real and touching, and I’d definitely recommend The Memory Book to fans of contemporary YA fiction.

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