The Memory Thief

Blink. Oct. 2019. 368p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780310767657.
Gr 8 Up–In the realm of Craewick, memories are everything—money, power, status, and even identity. The gifted, those who can harvest and redistribute others’ memories, rule over the ungifted. At the top of this power structure is Madame, destroying all who defy her but not before she sells the memories and experiences of those she deems traitors. Four years ago, Etta Lark betrayed her friends and struck a deal with Madame to save her mother’s life. Now, Etta lives a lie and her mother is a prisoner in her own mind. When Etta gets notice that her mother’s memories are to be auctioned to the highest bidder, she returns to her past and joins the fight to overthrow Madame and her army. The premise of this dystopian fantasy is intriguing and full of potential, but its complexities and depths are not plumbed here. The pacing bogs down in lengthy world-building explications and flowery depictions that don’t develop a true sense of the characters’ identities or make sense of their actions. The values upheld by Etta and her compatriots are laudable, but the delivery of the fable’s message gets rather heavy-handed as the novel builds toward the final showdown. Though the gentle romance woven through the adventure is a breath of fresh air, the resolution of the story’s central conflict seems too pat to be satisfying.
VERDICT Though not an essential purchase, this fast-paced tale of freedom fighters who battle with both their minds and bodies offers thrills, food for thought, and a main character to root for.

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