Review: The Memory Key by Liana Liu

Review: The Memory Key by Liana Liu The Memory Key by Liana Liu
Published by HarperCollins on March 3rd 2015
Pages: 368
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Edelweiss

In a five-minutes-into-the-future world, a bereaved daughter must choose between losing memories of her mother to the haze of time and the reality-distorting, visceral pain of complete, perfect recall.

Lora Mint is determined not to forget.

Though her mother’s been dead for five years, Lora struggles to remember every detail about her—most importantly, the specific events that occurred the night she sped off in her car, never to return.

But in a world ravaged by Vergets disease, a viral form of Alzheimer’s, that isn’t easy. Usually Lora is aided by her memory key, a standard-issue chip embedded in her brain that preserves memories just the way a human brain would. Then a minor accident damages Lora’s key, and her memories go haywire. Suddenly Lora remembers a moment from the night of her mother’s disappearance that indicates her death was no accident. Can she trust these formerly forgotten memories? Or is her ability to remember every painful part of her past driving her slowly mad—burying the truth forever?

Lora’s longing for her lost mother and journey to patch up her broken memories is filled with authentic and poignant emotion. Her race to uncover the truth is a twisty ride. In the end, Liana Liu’s story will spark topical conversations about memory and privacy in a world that is reliant on increasingly invasive forms of technology.


I really wanted to like this one more than I did. (Well, there’s an opening sentence that no one wants to see in a review, hm?) I love the topic of memory in general, and I love thinking about how our mind works. Sadly, this one fell short for me in more ways than one. It wasn’t all negative though, so…

What Worked For Me:

  • I liked that the family relationship was featured heavily. Lora has to deal with the death of her mother, her tense relationship with her father, and even an aunt in government who is a strong influence in her life.
  • I was interested enough to want to see how things turned out. The mystery and story were entertaining.

What Didn’t:

  • I don’t know where or when this is. It’s confusing, because it doesn’t seem like it is that far in the future, or even in the future at all, but I guess it is? As for location, it seems like it is kind of supposed to be a “Anywhere, USA” sort of thing, but it is incredibly generic, and all references to government and location are completely generic, so it could in fact be set anywhere, at any time. There is very little (close to not any) world building.
  • The flashbacks are really confusing. I don’t know if this is going to be different in the finished copy, but in the eARC there is absolutely no indication that Lora is having a flashback. I would be reading along, something would make no sense, and then I’d realize that I’d been reading a flashback scene for several paragraphs.
  • Speaking of flashbacks, wouldn’t she be freaking out a bit? If suddenly, your memory key malfunctions, and you are flooded with strange memories, wouldn’t you maybe, I don’t know, panic? Nah, Lora’s cool. I didn’t even understand that it wasn’t normal until a full chapter later.
  • Lora wasn’t particularly likeable for a big portion of the book. From about 20%-85%, I was kind of sick of her. She was being awful to everyone around her. I understand that she was having issues, but goodness, she was awful to her best friend, her father, people at work… it wasn’t exactly endearing.
  • The romance was… okay. There are two love interests, only she isn’t so interested in one. He’s actually completely pointless to the story, and if you cut every reference of him out, things would probably make the same amount of sense. Go home, Raul. The other love interest, Tim, is the brother of Lora’s best friend Wendy. Tim is fine, but they do this awkward back and forth that gets old really fast.
  • I saw the “twist” coming. Maybe this is just me, but yeah, I wasn’t super surprised by the way things ended up.

Bottom Line: Well, I guess that was a lot more negative than positive, no? Perhaps if I hadn’t read any books involving similar situations (The Unhappening of Genesis Lee comes to mind, and is far better executed), this would have worked better for me. But, this is a quick read, and the story was somewhat entertaining so if you’re interested, it might be worth it. Otherwise… not so much.


Posted February 23, 2015 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in Review , / 21 Comments

21 responses to “Review: The Memory Key by Liana Liu

  1. Aw, what a bummer! I was really starting to like the cover. The synopsis seemed iffy. I feel like whenever memory is a central focus of a book, it has the potential to either be mind-blowingly awesome or pretty bad. This one just sounds like it wasn’t particularly well-executed. And from the synopsis I was thinking, hey, maybe this one doesn’t have romance! It’s not mentioned, and it doesn’t even sound like it’s needed! But goodness knows it *had* to have not just one, but two love interests.

    • You are so right! It has potential, but needs to be really done right. And yeah, the romance was not great. It might have been okay, it had potential to be okay (if you know, Raul never existed and Lora wasn’t being weird).

  2. I saw this on EW and I came so close to hitting the download button. It sounds so good, but in the end I’m glad I didn’t because I’ve been seeing a lot of not so good things. I hope your next read is better!

  3. Haha, nice opening sentence. 😉 Yay for the good, especially the family theme, but the bad way outweighs the good. I don’t mind confusing but not knowing when it’s set or where it’s set throws you off, not good, not good at all. I don’t mind flashbacks (though I do find them annoying at times, but if you’re going to have them, a memory loss plot is the obvious) but indicating if they’re flashbacks or not, nope. Again, it throws you off. Yeah, because that is how you’re really going to act. Completely normal. Hey, no big. Nice Lora, nice. Go home, all romance. Even Tim. Top it all off with a predictable twist? Bye-bye book. I’m glad I skipped this one now, I do want to see if I get the twist, but on the other hand…It doesn’t sound worth it.

    • Yeah, it really did. I mean, I wasn’t quite bored, but there was a LOT of eye rolling. Right, the flashbacks themselves weren’t the problem, it was that I seriously didn’t KNOW it was a flashback, and I’d have to go back, reread until I figured out where it started, etc. I don’t know if it was intentional, or what the situation was, but I did not care for it!

      I think you would get the twist. I think my 3 year old would get the twist 😉 To me, it seemed obvious from the start, because it was a lot of “THIS HAPPENED” where you were kind of like “oh, so basically, you’re telling me it did not happen”, if that makes sense?

      I hate to say it, but it really wasn’t worth it 🙁

  4. As big readers, it really makes us book bloggers feel guilty to not like a book. Its sad when it happens, but its our duty to be honest to other bloggers. *shrug* Sorry to hear this one didn’t live up to its intriguing synopsis. The lack of world building would drive me insane – I’m a very curious person and I generally need a book to answer my questions. 🙁

    • It’s so true! I feel bad, but like, I need to be honest! I do wonder if any of it would have seemed more plausible with better world building, but I don’t even know. It just wasn’t fleshed out enough in general. I am just like you- I NEED to know all the stuff 😉

  5. Oh boy I read the Unhappening of Genesis Lee and I didn’t even think that was amazing, so I wonder how I’ll feel about this one. I mean I have to read it one day or another 😛

    Awesome review Shannon! Even though it was just blah. Hope you’re next read is better!

    • I will be very curious to hear your thoughts! Especially if you didn’t love Genesis Lee, because that one at least had like, decent world building and likable characters, sooo… yeah. Good luck!

  6. “Go home, Raul.” – Haha. It’s not good if a full character could be taken out and not change the book at all! I’m really into memory stuff and mind stuff, too, but I don’t tend to read a lot of books about it, I’m not sure why really.

    This sounds like one I will definitely pass on(I don’t like unlikable characters, or characters that just make you feel meh). Also, who wouldn’t panic if you started having strange memories!?

    Great review, Shannon!

  7. Oohh disappointed this one didn’t work out for you.. I agree with your point on the romance, sometimes there’s a pointless love triangle in there 🙁 Sounds like it would be a miss for me as well .. thanks for the honest review 🙂

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