BookPage Teen Top Pick, July 2016
In Lara Avery’s heartfelt, funny and bittersweet new novel, a gifted teen’s future is derailed when she’s diagnosed with a debilitating genetic condition. High school valedictorian Sammie McCoy can’t wait to escape small-town Vermont and start college at NYU. But when she learns she has Niemann-Pick Type C (NPC), her freshman-year plans begin to look unlikely. “Basically,” Sammie says of NPC, “it’s dementia.”
Due to the disorder, Sammie will eventually lose her memory, and so she begins chronicling the major events and little details of her life on a laptop, “writing to remember” all the things she’s bound to forget. Meanwhile, she hides her condition from her friends, which works just fine until she bungles a critical debate-club tournament.
Avery is a skillful storyteller who lets Sammie’s decline unfold gradually over the course of the novel. From the start, Sammie comes across as smart and sassy, an overachiever with all the answers, but as NPC takes over, she regresses. Her thoughts and perspectives become less sophisticated, more childlike—a reflection of her inner deterioration. Avery fleshes out the narrative with a cast of authentic characters, including Maddie, Sammie’s debate-club partner (who sports an electric-red mohawk), and Stuart, a handsome would-be writer and Sammie’s longtime crush.
Avery presents Sammie’s story not as a tragedy but as a tale of self-discovery. Without lapsing into sentiment or melodrama, she tackles big questions in a style that teen readers will find appealing. The Memory Book is a memorable read, indeed.