The Memory Index

Thomas Nelson. Aug. 2022. 384p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780840700667.
Gr 8 Up–In an alternate 1987, a disease called Memory Killer is stealing memories and destabilizing the world. To prevent permanent memory loss, everyone takes part in government-controlled artificial memory recall using technology created by a company called Memory Frontier. Fletcher is one of the lucky “recollectors” who only needs to use artificial recall once a day. Freya is a “degen,” or degenerate, requiring multiple per day. The two are recruited to attend a boarding school and participate in a trial of Memory Frontier’s newest technology. They and their roommates, Chase and Ollie, forge a loyal friend group and work together to question the motives and uncover the secrets of their school. An imaginative and thought-provoking premise is richly realized, and the personal and societal implications of widespread memory loss are deeply explored. Themes of grief and trauma, and their multifaceted connections with memory, add depth and complexity to an already inventive work. The 1980s setting is portrayed primarily through movie and music references, with a complete list of songs and a QR code to access the playlist included at the end of the book. Freya is Mexican American, her roommate Ollie is Vietnamese American, and they experience overt and implied racism. At times the pace is slowed down by concept explanations, and the dialogue does not always feel wholly authentic to teens, but these aspects do little to detract from the overall work.
VERDICT A clever and empathetic work of speculative fiction that examines the power and fragility of memory, recommended for general purchase. Cinematic writing, teen sleuthing, and a nostalgic setting make this book a great recommendation to fans of Stranger Things.

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