The Memory Book by Lara Avery
Format: ARC e-book
Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
This was one of the books that everyone was hauling at YALC, so when it came up on Netgalley, it was an instant request! The premise sounded so intriguing but somehow it both exceeded and didn’t meet our expectations.
The Memory Book follows Sammie, who was recently diagnosed with NPC which affects your memory, and while this would be distressing for pretty much everyone, Sammie’s whole world relies on her ability to remember facts so she can pass her exams, get into a top university, and succeed at her favourite thing: debate. Sammie has her whole life planned out, and she’s the kind of person you know is going to achieve everything she sets her mind to, so when she starts to lose her memory and the future she imagined for herself has no possibility of becoming reality, she’s obviously heartbroken.
Everything starts relatively normal, leading up to the pinnacle of Sammie’s debate career, and you know it’s building up to the huge fall, and I just wanted everyone to stay in this happy, protective bubble. But you know that’s impossible because it’s the whole reason Sammie’s writing this book in the first place – so that she can remember everything that was important to her even when she starts losing her memory.
In terms of pacing, this book is all over the place. The first 25% per cent has direction and focus, which is probably reflective of the strength of Sammie’s memory in the beginning of the book, but as it continues it’s difficult to see where the plot is going and the pace is pretty gentle, with the focus being all over the place as Sammie’s memory deteriorates.
I feel like in general, the ending was way too abrupt and not what I thought we were working towards. In fact the whole thing felt like it lacked a bit of direction. There’s no doubting that this is a mostly character based story, and that’s okay, but I kept trying to predict what where the story would go and it definitely DIDN’T end how I was expecting. I can’t help feeling a little disappointed even though I was so emotional.
Sammie is a tough one. I loved how she told her story, despite being in a really tough situation she always had this lightness and humour. But she became slightly more unlikeable because she was the kind of person that wanted everyone to be up front to her, but she wasn’t prepared to return the favour. (AKA. She was hiding her problems from her best friend and boyfriend, and while I understand the reasoning behind this – you don’t want them to treat you differently – if they do then you can just talk to them. They’re not very supportive if they don’t take your feelings into consideration, and it just makes me sad that some people don’t trust their friends enough to continue treating them like a real person even when something drastic has happened.)
Cooper was a highlight of this whole thing. He’s the kind of person everyone underestimates just because he’s made some bad decisions in the past. I loved whenever Sammie and Cooper were hanging out, especially their reconnection in the final quarter of the book, because the way the memories were reported was bittersweet and beautiful.
The middle is much more romance focused. Sammie’s becomes involved with Stuart, who I’ve already mentioned, and he’s a writer and someone else with high aspirations. I lost interest in this who section because I could never fully support their relationship Cooper’s been around from the beginning of the story and it’s quite obvious (because Sammie tells him so) that Sammie has feelings for Coop, and he probably returns them. So, they weren’t right for each other at the time. And this whole side plot was a massive conflict in the story because there’s a kind-of love triangle.
The ending though, wow. That really pumped the emotions out of me. I didn’t think I was that connected to the characters until the finale, and then it hit me like a ton of bricks. The Memory Book had its ups and downs. There were some parts I really enjoyed and others, well…not so much. It’s still remains one of the most uniquely formatted/structured books I’ve ever read, so I have to give props for the narration style actually matching the character. I’ve read first person before, obviously, but I don’t think I’ve ever been as close to Sammie’s mind with any other character.
What’s the most interestingly formatted book you’ve read?
How do you feel about romance in ‘illness’ books?