Available April 1st
Received for review as part of the Cornucopia of Dystopia Blog Tour
While out in the city with her mother, Nora witnesses firsthand the brutal violence that is a normal and often everyday occurrence where she lives. Bombs go off all the time, and Nora has always just accepted it as part of her life. Until a man lands on the sidewalk at her feet, dead.
To make her life easier, Nora's mom encourages her to go to a Therapeutic Forgetting Clinic, or TFC, so the memory can be erased and won't haunt her the rest of her life. At the clinic, however, everything changes. Nora not only learns a truth about her mother, but she also runs into Micah, a young man who shows her he hasn't swallowed his forgetting pill and taunts her with his quiet rebellion.
Following Micah's lead, Nora chooses to remember and comes to realize the importance of memories. Together with Micah and his friend Winter, she writes a comic strip called Memento and distributes it among her classmates. The comic has a shockingly profound effect, and turns into something life changing for its three young creators.
Thought provoking in the possibilities it presents, Memento Nora is a story that causes us to shift a lot of our attention inward, wondering what we might do if erasing targeted memories was actually an option. So many fascinating questions are raised with such a deceptively simple premise, the idea of a pill to help us forget unwanted moments in time seeming pretty straightforward, but the implications and repercussions of forgetting we quickly learn are broad and enormous in scale. What kind of world would it be if we simply wiped away the image of abuse or violence simply because we could? Would we not become stagnant by choosing to forget the tragedies, the hurts, and the pains, however small or large, that ultimately shape and mold our lives into liquid and ever-changing journeys? Learning from the events of the past, as opposed to dismissing them, seems necessary to ensure we are never held prisoner by a complacency that bypassing progress through memory alteration would inevitably cause.
Though the plot moves quickly and is far darker in the tale it tells than we suspect when we first begin reading, the characterization isn't quite as memorable as a story that just begs to be discussed until the wee hours of the morning. Because we get the point of view of each of our three main protagonists as they recount the events leading to the creation of Memento for the authorities, we don't have enough time in this quick, under-two-hundred-page tale to get to know any of them in a way where we will forever remember their names regardless of how many new characters we meet in other books. While all of their perspectives are intriguing and their separate voices are easy to read, jumping from one mind to the next swiftly keeps the roots through which we absorb all those emotions we crave when reading from extending deep enough beneath the surface to reach the layer where richer and more complex connections are waiting.
Interestingly enough, one of the most fascinating characters is Nora's mom–a woman whose point of view we are actually denied, but who makes a lasting impression on us nonetheless. She inspires both our anger for her willingness to swallow her life away one pill at a time instead of taking control of it, but also our sympathy for enduring a difficult situation and coping the only way she knows how. Her example elicits a strong reaction in both Nora and us, her quiet struggle more shocking to Nora than the violence of the Coalition attacks, and more unnerving to us for its relatability. Reading as Nora, Micah, and Winter seek to release the invisible binds locking those like Nora's mom into a life of contented repetition by revealing the power that stems from possibility is a tense, and ironically, unforgettable experience.
Memento Nora is an enjoyable debut from Ms. Smibert, the strength lying more in a brilliant and compelling story as opposed to deep and layered protagonists, but it is one that certainly makes an impression. Seeing individuals who are capable of blazing a trail into the unknown, thereby stripping themselves of their reliance on the safety of forgetting, but who choose to remain passive is gut-wrenching in its difficulty. However, watching as those who refuse to digest what the government tries to feed them and attempt to affect change despite their fear plasters a hopeful smile on our faces that remains in place until the very end.
Be sure and stop by this afternoon for my interview with Ms. Smibert and a giveaway of Memento Nora!