The Memory Book by Lara Avery

9781250121004_9c076.jpgI was excited to see Lara Avery had a new novel coming out, because I read A Million Miles Away and loved it. Now The Memory Book has become my favorite Lara Avery novel. I devoured it in just over one day. The chapters are short, mostly written as journal entries into Sammie’s memory book, making for quick, easy reading. Avery’s characters seem so real that readers will have no trouble loving them, despite their flaws.

This is the story of Sammie McCoy, a high school senior and valedictorian of her class, who is preparing for the national Debate finals and starting college at her dream school. She has worked tirelessly for the past 4 years, planning out everything so her future would be bright. Sammie’s family plays a big part in her life, and she enjoys time spent with her parents and three siblings.

However, Sammie is writing everything down hoping to never forget. She is hoping Future Sam will be able to read and remember all the things she likes, dislikes, and all the things she has experienced. True to her personality of being a go-getter, perfectionist, planner, and fighter, Sammie plans to keep living as best as she can, even after she is diagnosed with a rare genetic disease (Niemann-Pick Type C) which will cause her to lose her memories and eventually die. She doesn’t tell anyone about the disease at first, keeping it from her best friend and even her boyfriend. Sammie doesn’t want to be pitied, because she is determined to beat the odds and go ahead to college and chase her dreams.

Sammie is inspiring and brave. She is determined to spend her remaining time on earth really living, and being with the ones she loves. Even as her health declines, she still records all of the everyday moments in her memory book. She wants it to be real, showing both the ups and downs of her life.

One of the most memorable parts of the story was the scene where Sammie and Coop are together and Coop is reviving Captain Stickman, a character who made his appearance often when they were children. The way the scene is written with the back-and-forth shouting is hilarious, but also touching because it shows how Sammie can and has always been able to truly be herself with Coop, even if they have grown into young adults with pressure and responsibility. I was laughing out loud during this scene because it was a perfect way to capture Sammie and Coop’s easy-going relationship.

I also cried a lot while reading Sammie’s memory book, especially near the end when all of the people she loves are writing in the book. Fans of All the Bright Places and The Fault in our Stars will love this story, as it touches on some similar themes. However, I found it to be unique and an absolutely beautiful, touching story. I’ll be recommending The Memory Book wholeheartedly to all of my students when school starts up again in August.

Thanks to Little, Brown, and Company for the Advance Review Copy.

 

A Million Miles Away by Lara Avery

A Million Miles Away is a heartbreaking but awesome story. I’m so glad to have read it, even though I knew from the synopsis that there would be quite a bit of sad parts. The author has a knack for capturing the raw feelings of the character, including feelings of grief, anger, loss, guilt, betrayal, and love. Kelsey Maxwell and her sister, Michelle, may be identical twins, but that is about all they have in common. Michelle is artistic and spends her time being creative and quiet. Kelsey is a dancer who enjoys being the life of the party with her boyfriend and friends. Michelle is pretty tight lipped about any romantic interests, especially to her twin sister. Kelsey happens to meet Michelle’s current boyfriend, Peter, the weekend he is due to be deployed to Afghanistan. Tragically, Michelle is in a fatal car accident on her way home from the airport, leaving behind Kelsey and her parents to pick up the pieces. No one in the family but Kelsey knows about Peter, and she has no way to find him to tell him about Michelle. One day she happens to see a Skype call coming in from Peter (meant for Michelle, of course) and she picks it up. Talking to Peter (as her sister) somehow helps her cope with her grief and sadness, and seems to help Peter get through the stressful days in battle in Afghanistan. She plans to tell Peter the truth, but finds herself falling for him and soon she cannot bear to break his heart. As you can imagine, such a sticky situation cannot end well. The author did a great job of ending the book, however, without tying everything in a neat little bow. I would highly suggest this book for teens and adults alike. It’s a very sweet story which shows that even from a tragedy, love can and will endure. I’m a big fan.