Hey everyone! This is my first review for summer 2018 and I’m super excited to kick it off with a book that I hold near and dear to my heart (which was broken by it, may I add). I’ve read The Memory Book twice now and I still get intense feelings from it, so let’s talk about it, shall we?
Chapter Length: ✭✭✭✭
Cliche Count: ✭✭
Overall Rating: ✭✭✭✭
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.
Let’s jump right in. The first thing I really appreciated about The Memory Book was the characters. All of the characters in the book are very diverse when it comes to their personalities (AKA there were no “who are you and why are you here again” moments). Sammie is obviously very dedicated to realizing her dreams and trying super hard not to let NPC crush them. Her level of dedication and determination to her passions is nicely complemented by her best friend Maddie, however, Maddie is also a polar opposite of Sammie because she is all about lightening up and living your life without worries, whereas Sammy is that typical “fly on the wall” at social functions. Perhaps the opposites attract friendship trope is a little cliche, but I think it worked well in this book.
I was fond of Stuart because I related to him on some level. We all want to think that we have our lives together and that we have a solid plan where nothing will go wrong, but that’s just not realistic in this life. Stuart found that out the hard way. He has this poker face with Sammie where on the outside he is calm, cool, & totally collected, but on the inside, he is panicky and doesn’t want her to stress for him on top of all of her struggles with her disease. I appreciate his act of selflessness, but it also kind of dampened his character development because we never truly saw how he processed the bad parts of life. Instead, he hid it all away which made me feel like he was lacking dimension. I almost wish we had a chapter from his perspective to learn more than what we do from Sammie’s, which is that he is her good-looking dream boyfriend and is seemingly ridiculously successful.
And last but not least, goofy Cooper made me smile a lot during the book. He is a character who next to Sammie has the most dimension in the book because we see his faults. He’s jealous, he’s sensitive, and he cares a whole lot about her and her condition. Lara wrote his character in a way that made me want to be his next-door neighbor and go on adventures and do things that he and Sammie did as children. He’s basically a physical embodiment of that childhood nostalgia.
The next thing I really enjoyed about The Memory Book was the fact that although there is a love triangle present, the book is NOT just focused on romance. There is a strong familial bond. I honestly probably wouldn’t have liked this book at all if it wasn’t for the sense of family it had, because then it’d be the whole “sick girl chasing after an emotionally conflicted boy” trope.
So, I love the family aspects of the book because it adds reality back into the plot at those times when Sammie is really overestimating her capabilities. It is a stark contrast that serves as an archetype for expectations of life vs. the realities of life.
Case in point: there is a scene in the book where Sammie’s mother comes home and she’s really tired and kind of grumpy from work. She makes a remark along the lines of “well these medical bills won’t pay themselves.” After some discourse between herself and Sammie, she immediately realizes it was a crappy thing to say and apologizes and simply confesses to Sammie that she’s really being run down. I appreciated this scene because even though it feels like a slap in the face for Sammie, it is a reminder of the ramifications of having a terminally ill child. In all, the family bond in the book both breaks up the sappiness that Sammie feels for Stuart and also adds back to the reality of Sammie’s illness.
And finally, I really appreciated the lessons. There are a few that I picked out while reading, and the first one is quite frankly carpe diem. Being thankful for your life and your health and making the most out of the time you have. I know health whether it be mental or physical is a touchy subject in society because nobody likes to feel invalid, but I think regardless of how either is for you personally, there is always something to be thankful for. Even if it’s just having access to the internet to be reading these words! This is something I’d like to put into practice more often: to not regret the past or be anxious over the future, but to try to focus on the present, ya know?
Lesson #2 that I picked out of the book is that there must be a balance between being optimistic in life and realistic in life. This circles around to how I said the family bond is an archetype for expectation vs reality. As the book teaches, life is completely unpredictable. In Sammie’s case it was a few weird things that began happening to her (like not having good visual-spatial coordination), and the next thing she knows she’s in the hospital being told that she has a rare genetic disease that will ultimately end her life. Stuff like that is so so unanticipated, and while it’s good that she kept her optimism until the very end, she also had to come to terms with the reality of her dwindling capabilities. This is another thing I think I’d like to work on for myself personally: being optimistic about things but anticipating hardships as well.
Lastly, lesson #3: it’s good to have a plan, but it’s okay to not always stick to it. I am very much a person who likes to have a plan for almost everything, and I usually get anxious if I don’t. But to add to the previous lesson, it’s to say that life is spontaneous in both good and bad ways. Sometimes you make a plan and then life throws 3 different obligations that you weren’t expecting to have to deal with. It’s okay. Breathe, and take it with stride. Come back to the plan when you can, or scrap it and start over. I feel like I’m mainly writing this for me at this point, but if anyone else needs it too, remember: “life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow, what a ride!'”
1: The characters’ impulses to hide their negative feelings. I touched on this before with Stuart, but it also shows up a lot with Sammie because she’s afraid of people fussing over her or all of a sudden dropping their expectations for her performance (cue: Maddie). This is reasonable, but it again closes her off from the genuineness of the people around her who just want to make sure she sees out the rest of her life with comfort. I don’t think it affected her character development like it did Stuart since we are able to see even the bad parts from her journal, but I think had she confided in people (cue: Maddie,) she would’ve had more backup.
2: The place where the book completely fails at logic. As always, I like to scroll through other people’s reviews for books I plan to review on Goodreads in order to get a more well-rounded opinion on the book. While I was doing that for The Memory Book, I came across this review that I wholeheartedly agree with. To summarize, Sammie’s parents end up telling her that she cannot go anywhere without a first responder present in case of an emergency. She agrees, and it’s all good…until they let her drive herself to a post-graduation party? It’s an obvious fail, and when you consider how Niemann-Pick Type C affects motor and cognitive abilities (which are both really important to driving, btw), it’s really irritating to think of how serious the impact could’ve been.
And lastly, the abrupt ending. This is something I found a lot of other people also were kind of upset with. It felt like her health didn’t quite deteriorate enough to instantly have a seizure, be in the hospital, and be gone the next day. I guess it can be a symbol for the theme of the spontaneity of life that the book had going, but it also just felt so cut short. As if there was a limit that Lara Avery was approaching and just needed a quick ending.
Ever since I read it the first time in 2016, I knew that I had a soft spot for The Memory Book and wanted to read it again and review it. Although it’s taken a while, I can confidently say that I enjoyed this book because it taught me about something I’ve never heard of and reminded me to enjoy my life and be thankful for health, because I don’t know about you, but I’d say that’s pretty important ✨
Have you read The Memory Book? If so, let me know what you thought of it in the comments!
NEXT POST: Requested Review: Sea Breeze Academy ~ Bryant Loney. Out June 26th!