YA Book Review: The Memory of Things
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The following review of The Memory of Things (St. Martin’s Griffin, September 16, 2016 ) by Gae Polisner is by Food, Fitness and Fiction Contributing Editor Joshua Flores (pictured above).
Here is a description of The Memory of Things from Amazon:
On the morning of September 11, 2001, sixteen-year-old Kyle Donohue watches the first twin tower come down from the window of Stuyvesant High School. Moments later, terrified and fleeing home to safety across the Brooklyn Bridge, he stumbles across a girl perched in the shadows, covered in ash, and wearing a pair of costume wings. With his mother and sister in California and unable to reach his father, a NYC detective likely on his way to the disaster, Kyle makes the split-second decision to bring the girl home. What follows is their story, told in alternating points of view, as Kyle tries to unravel the mystery of the girl so he can return her to her family. But what if the girl has forgotten everything, even her own name? And what if the more Kyle gets to know her, the less he wants her to go home? The Memory of Things tells a stunning story of friendship and first love and of carrying on with our day-to-day living in the midst of world-changing tragedy and unforgettable pain―it tells a story of hope.
For Kyle Donohue, it was just a normal day. He went to school, his father went off to work, and the citizens of New York City went about their usual routines. But when the twin towers are hit by two airplanes, Kyle’s life falls to pieces. The Memory of Things is a heart-wrenching tale about discovery, tragedy, and the difficulty that comes with recovery. Told through the perspectives of Kyle and the mysterious girl with only a pair of wings on her back, The Memory of Things gives readers not only insight into the lives of those who experienced September 11th first hand, but those who are lost and trying desperately to be found.
The novel begins with Kyle, who is stuck in the chaos that was September 11th. His father is off helping his fellow detectives and his mother and sister are away on a trip to California. Kyle is all alone in a city filled with death and destruction, until he comes across a teenage girl who is on the side of the Brooklyn Bridge, all alone in the midst of total devastation. Kyle takes it upon himself to save the lost girl and to bring her home with him so they can sort out how to get her back safely to her family. But the mystery begins when Kyle soon realizes that the girl has no memory of her old life, or even herself. Throughout their week together, Kyle tries desperately to help the girl find herself, discovers his own insecurities, and learns that maybe he cares even more about the mystery girl then he thought he could.
Polisner has created such a touching and original story that brings back the sadness and hope that defined the 2001 terrorist attack. You can almost smell the ashes and hear the screams from New York while following Kyle and his confused female companion. I thoroughly enjoyed the dual narration and how both characters’ worlds intertwined, leaving readers with two completely human, interesting, and humorous teenage perspectives of the 9/11 attacks.
The Memory of Things was nearly flawless. The plot moved quickly, the character’s lives and stories were very emotional, and the budding romance between the protagonists was highly engaging, but there was one aspect of the novel that seemed to be a glaring issue (at first). At the beginning of the book, the girl who has lost her memory has a very jumbled and confusing voice. Her narration is a bit short and choppy, making it a bit difficult for the reader to follow. But as soon as I reached the halfway mark, I completely understood how this made the story even better. The girl starts off feeling confused and a bit lost, just as the reader does while following her story. Then she gains some clarity and helps the reader to slowly understand her thoughts and her story as well. While some may be thrown off by the confusing nature of the beginning of the novel, I beg you to give the story a chance and allow the characters to slowly reveal themselves throughout the pages; I promise that it is worth the wait (and struggle).
While there are many books that discuss the tragedies and horrors of 9/11, very few writers of teen fiction dare to cover such mature and unchartered territory. Polisner beautifully embodies the emotions of teenagers during 2001 and also makes a point of creating a story of self-discovery as well, and not just a book about the events of the attack. For those looking for a bitter-sweet story about the challenges of life and what it takes to find yourself, The Memory of Things is the book to read. I cannot recommend this book more highly.
Joshua Flores, a junior from Tustin, California is currently an editor for the Beckman Chronicle and enjoys both reading and writing. He spends most of his free time writing, and coming up with weird characters for the novel he is working on. You can follow him on Instagram at @booklover41899.
For other reviews of The Memory of Things, click on the following links:
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