Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Review: The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner

Purchase: Amazon / B&N

Title: The Memory of Things
Author: Gae Polisner
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
 Publication Date: September 6, 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Historical Fiction

*I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

The powerful story of two teenagers finding friendship, comfort, and first love in the days following 9/11 as their fractured city tries to put itself back together.

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. She is covered in ash and wearing a pair of costume wings. With his mother and sister in California and unable to reach his father, a New York City 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.

 The Memory of Things took me right back to 2001. I was pretty much the same age as the characters in this novel and I remember walking in to my first period class to see the TV on (which was an extremely rare occurrence in Algebra). The rest of the day was spent watching in disbelief, horror, and sadness as the towers fell and we learned more information about the terrorist attacks. None of that can even come close to what the people living in New York and those that had loved ones in the area experienced. Reading this novel gave kind of an insight into the chaos and fear that followed those tragic events.

Kyle happens upon a troubled girl while he is running away from the ash and debris, and sensing she has nowhere to go, he takes her home with him. She is unable to remember anything, even her own name, but he is determined to help her memories return. The story centers not only on the growing relationship between Kyle and the mystery girl, but also each of their individual stories and the growth they go through as the novel progresses. Kyle not only has to wonder if his mom, dad, and sister are alive, he also struggles with the fact that his beloved uncle is disabled after a motorcycle accident. The girl has a sort of amnesia, but the bits that do come back to her hint to a recent tragedy in her life that she is struggling to overcome. They were strangers, yet the terrorist attack united them and allowed them to alter each others lives for the better.

The point of view switches back and forth between Kyle and the girl. I was a little put off by the parts where the girl was the narrator, because they tended to be bits and pieces of thoughts. Once I understood that she was suffering from memory loss it all made sense and became more bearable. Her thoughts were jumbled together, so it made sense that her internal dialogue would be too.

This probably goes without saying, but you might want to have tissues handy while reading. I pretty much kept it together until toward the end of the book, yet seeing the events through the characters' eyes brought me back to that day and all of the feelings that went along with it. Although it brought up sad memories, it also reminded me that not everything that came from this horrific attack was terrible. In the case of Kyle, our protagonist, living through something like this ended up changing the way he viewed things, for the better. Much like how the whole nation banded together, Kyle's family did so as well and any troubles they had been experiencing prior to that fateful day became insignificant. It showed that it's okay to move on, and sometimes it's only through the support of others that we are able to do so. 

I've read a few books with the 9/11 attacks as part of the plot, but this has been my favorite by far. It was approached with sensitivity, while still exploring the details of that day and the aftermath. I think everyone, even the teens who were too young when it happened to remember, will be able to relate to something in The Memory of Things

If you would like to learn more about the author, Gae Polisner, please visit her website and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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