The Memory Book by Lara Avery
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Senior debater and valedictorian-to-be Sammie discovers that she has a rare genetic disease called Niemann-Pick and that she is likely to develop systems of dementia, mental retardation, seizures and --eventually-- death. This is completely against Sammie's plans of college at NYU after graduation and an eventual career as a lawyer. Even as she struggles against the diagnosis, she decides to create a memory book, which she writes for her future self as a way to relate what is important. She types the memory book onto a laptop and it becomes a diary of how the disease tries to break her and how she attempts to fight back.
In her corner, she has her mom and dad, three younger siblings, a childhood best friend who she has grown apart from in high school, and a crush that has recently returned to her small town in New Hampshire from New York City. She also has a poster of feminist icons in her room who she selects to help her focus on her goal of beating this disease.
The reader gets clues from her parents, local doctor and Mayo Clinic specialist on speakerphone that Sammie is not going to beat this and that at some point she is going to have to accept this as well.
By this time, I was expecting to go through the whole emotional process of Sammie turning into a drooling vegetable, stuck in a hospital bed by the end of the book. What I didn't expect was just how much Sammie would continue and how her personality would evolve throughout the book. Very occasionally, Sammie gives control of the keyboard over to another character so you get some outside perspective on her as well.
Readers who like very real stories about rare medical situations like Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell, None of the Aboveby Gregorio and Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon will like this book. This book could easily be considered a downer and I could see readers shying away from it because it seems like it would be too sad. I think that this would be a mistake. The book has some really funny points and there's definitely some good romantic moments in it as well.
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