They tell me that my memory isn’t going to be the same, that I might start forgetting things. At first just a little, and then a lot. So I’m writing to remember.
When I went to meet Lizzie for tea and cake back in January, she brought me a stack of books. One of them was Wing Jones, and another one was this. I must confess, I was taken with the sprayed edges and the general look of it, but I put it away in the cupboard and sort of forgot about it, until I needed a book to take with me to Birmingham at the weekend (note: I went on London Midland. It was a mistake. Never do this if it can possibly be avoided.). I finished it on Wednesday afternoon, sitting by the lake in my local park, and communing with nature. I might have done a cry if a beardy man with a dog hadn’t arrived when I was about four pages from the end.
Samantha McCoy has a life plan: win the national debating championship, ace high school, move to New York, be a human rights lawyer. But that is all thrown into jeopardy when she is diagnosed with a rare disease that, amongst other symptoms, will steal her memory. The Memory Book is her journal, her reminder for Future Sam so that she can still live her dreams.
I saw a lot of comparisons to The Fault In Our Stars and All The Bright Places, and I can see where these are coming from – it doesn’t shy away from illness, from what’s happening to Sam. But I’m glad I didn’t see the comparison to All The Bright Places until I was already reading the book, because that would have put me right off. I liked The Fault In Our Stars, but that’s much more adventurous and fairytale than this. I like how The Memory Book is just, well, pretty normal. Sam’s adventures are more like your average teenager’s, which makes it feel a lot more real.
I read it quickly, and not just because I spent a lot of time on trains at the weekend. I liked Sam, I liked her friends (a lesbian teenager! a stoner! a published writer! But let’s be real, I’m mostly excited about the lesbian character because, well, I am me), I liked her family, and I liked the approach to community and small towns. It’s lovely, for all the sadness. And on the subject of sadness, of course it’s sad, but it manages to be neither falsely positive nor a massive downer. I liked it.