Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Review: Memento Nora

Angie Smibert
Young Adult/Dystopian
184 Pages
Marshall Cavendish
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.

Rating: 3.5/5

Be sure and stop by this afternoon for my interview with Ms. Smibert and a giveaway of Memento Nora!


  1. Sounds interesting. The memory thing reminds me of Matched. I think I need a break from dystopia but I'd like to eventually get to this. Memento Mori is one of my favorite sayings and I love how this plays off of it.

  2. This seems pretty good, although nothing about it really catches my attention yet. I'll have to read more reviews to make up my mind.

  3. I thought the characters were pretty well done in this one for such a short novel but like you, I would have loved to know more about them in detail and have the book be a little longer. I was kind of surprised by how small it looked when I got it in the mail. Great review, Jenny!

  4. When I first saw the book, I never thought it would be thought-provoking. I was uninterested in the book earlier, but now I am having second thoughts.

  5. Jenny, why is it every time I read one of your reviews I always end up wowed. You can make even a bad novel sound good. Seriously, the premise of this book really has some far reaching possibilities as you so masterfully pointed out, but without strong characterization it also sounds as if it missed fulfilling them.

    With all the books out there I might just miss this one for now.

  6. I think I decided to pass this one up and only because I have so many dystopians on the list this year. Your review kinda makes me wanna check it out...!!!

    Great review Jenny!

  7. Alison - It definitely is a little like Matched with regard to the pill, but the worlds are very different:) It's a quick read, I blew through it in one sitting.

    Ashley - I really liked the world and the premise, I just wanted a little more time with each of the characters since what little time I did spend with them I enjoyed:)

    Zahida - Exactly, I felt like I was almost connected to them by the end but not quite there yet.

    Misha - I found the questions it raised really interesting. It made me wonder if I would make the decision to forget if it was such a common and normal thing.

    Jan - Thank you so much Jan! I enjoyed sitting back and thinking about the possibilities presented in the book, and that's what has stuck with me more than the individual actions of the characters. I would have loved it if both elements had been equally memorable:)

    Tina - I thought it was intriguing, and really short so you can breeze right through it. The reason for my slightly lower rating is characters are always my favorite part, and they weren't quite as interesting as the story for me.

  8. I've heard great things about this book .. and I really like the cover !! Thanks for the review Jenny !! It sounds awesome !!

  9. I've been seeing this book around a lot lately. Maybe I'll decide to read this one later on but right now I'm suffereing from a little dystopian fatigue.

  10. I'm looking forward to reading this one for the blog tour. I enjoyed reading your reviews and see what things you liked and what you felt was a little lacking. Something of which I'll definitely keep in mind when I read the book. :)

  11. Elodie - I enjoyed it even though I didn't quite connect to the characters as much, it was really interesting:)

    Jenny - After being a part of this tour of Dystopian greatness, I'm a little burnt out as well, but I love this genre as a whole:)

    Rummanah - Can't wait to read your review, I love comparing notes:)

  12. Man awesome review. You quite gifted!

  13. I'm on the fence about this one. I mean I love the insight you have brought with your review, but does it really go further? Does it really show that without the dark we cannot have the light? I mean I get that dystopian is dark by it's nature, but since it's YA I just wonder if it gives that extra push I usually like to see in such themes. You have me really looking at this one! Great job!

  14. Your review has given me so many questions! I can only imagine what reading the book will be like. I already want to stay up late discussing the premise. What interesting questions about psychological and societal development this premise raises.

  15. Juju - Thank you:)

    Melissa - wrote you an email:)

    Small - I loved all the things it made me think about, that was by far my favorite part!

  16. I have this book for review. I'm looking forward to reading the dystopian world she created. I like the idea of the story, particularly the underground comics. Definitely wouldn't want anyone erasing my memories!

    I'm not a big fan of short books like this. I think longer stories can build on characterization and world. Glad to hear it was enjoyable! Fab review.

  17. I had no clue what this book was even about, I do that sometimes. I add the book to my TBR list and don't even read the summart, haha. As long as this one reads nothing liked Matched(someone mentioned the pill similarity and I didn't like Matched) I hope I like it! Great review!

  18. I really enjoyed this book.My only gripe was the shortness of it, but it did packed in it good. Nice review!

  19. Awww, Jenny, sounds like I enjoyed this one a little more than you - I thought this one was such a breath of fresh air! A good review, though, and you raise some excellent points! I'm thinking if there's a sequel, that we will get quite a bit more about Nora and her mom - you are right - her character was fascinating!

  20. Julie - I wanted it to be just a touch longer, I was so enjoying the world:)

    Jacinda - I do that too. Sometimes I just see the cover and it gets added to the list!

    Savy - Agreed, I wanted to know the characters more!

    Linds - I did like this one, I just am all about characters and I didn't feel like I got to know them as much as I wanted to because we got bounced around to all three of them so much in a short amount of pages:) I definitely would read the sequel if there was going to be one!

  21. Thanks for the wonderful review Jenny! I've been a bit hesitant about Momento Nora but I think after reading your thoughts on the novel, I'll have to take a second look the next time I see it at the bookstore.

    Memories are such an important part of ourselves so the idea of being able to wipe them clean is an interesting one.

    And I didn't realize how short the novel was! A lot of times with short novels, I'm just getting into the story before it already ends...