Let’s Flail: The Memory Book by Lara Avery

Let’s Flail: The Memory Book by Lara Avery The Memory Book by Lara Avery
Published by Poppy on July 5th 2016
Pages: 368
Format:ARC
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review

They tell me that my memory will never be the same, that I'll start forgetting things. At first just a little, and then a lot. So I'm writing to remember.

Sammie was always a girl with a plan: graduate at the top of her class and get out of her small town as soon as humanly possible. Nothing will stand in her way--not even a rare genetic disorder the doctors say will slowly start to steal her memories and then her health. What she needs is a new plan.

So the Memory Book is born: Sammie's notes to her future self, a document of moments great and small. It's where she'll record every perfect detail of her first date with longtime crush, Stuart--a brilliant young writer who is home for the summer. And where she'll admit how much she's missed her childhood best friend, Cooper, and even take some of the blame for the fight that ended their friendship.

Through a mix of heartfelt journal entries, mementos, and guest posts from friends and family, readers will fall in love with Sammie, a brave and remarkable girl who learns to live and love life fully, even though it's not the life she planned.

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Oh, what a happy day when a book gets one out of one’s reading slump! Do you ever pick up a book and just know from the first page that you’re going to likely fall in love? Yeah, that was me and The Memory Book. Sammie just jumped out at me from the start, and I knew that I was all in. Her character jumped right off the page, and I was enamored with her immediately. And I stayed that way until the end.

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Sammie’s story is obviously not rainbows and sunshine. Nor is it all doom and gloom either- it’s just life. And even though Sammie has been dealt a really lousy hand, she’s still a young woman trying to figure out her place in the world. She’s navigating relationships, and the end of high school, and family stuff, all while being told “hey, you probably aren’t going to remember you anymore”.  It is incredibly moving in that respect alone, but I adored Sammie so much that it made her journey so much more meaningful to read.

A few more things I loved about this book? Why not! 

  • Sammie’s family is hugely involved in her life– and not just because of the disease. No, they were in it long before that, this just makes their importance in her life much more apparent. Her relationship with her mother especially jumped out at me, as it warmed my heart, but her dad and her siblings were also fabulous characters.  The way Sammie hopes and dreams for them… well, I am tearing up again.
  • I loved the journal-style! And I really loved that Sammie wrote it in a .doc file, because let’s be real, it was so relatable. And while it was certainly character-driven, as you’d expect, the story never dragged.
  • The writing is incredible. I don’t want to give too much away, but there were these subtleties within the writing that coincided with the events in the book and it just kind of blew me away. If you’ve read it… View Spoiler »
  • There is some romance. And it’s messy and confusing, and not one of those tropey “oh you’re sick so we’ll pretend everything is perfect” kind of things. And I won’t say anything else about that, for reasons.

Bottom Line: Sammie and her story captured my heart completely. She is an offbeat, sweet character who is not perfect, and whose life won’t be taking the path she always assumed it would. The Memory Book is about life and love, acceptance and perseverance, and it is undoubtedly a story I won’t forget.

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A side note: I didn’t want to bring this up, because frankly, I have no knowledge to speak of this. But alas, I got a comment on Goodreads about the book and its depiction of Niemann Pick Type C, which is what Sammie has in The Memory Book. It was from a woman named Debbie whose daughter has this awful condition. My heart broke for her, because no one should have to face this- not this mother, not her family, and certainly not her daughter. And as a mother who has absolutely spoken out about her own son’s genetic disorder portrayal, I understand where she is coming from. Or at least, I understand somewhat, as I cannot even imagine what fighting her particular battle must be like- and I think it takes a ton of courage to speak up and start this dialogue.

That said, I felt like perhaps it is a bit unfair to say that the author downplayed the severity of the disease. In my (admittedly unprofessional) research, every medical site I read indicates that Niemann–Pick type C has a wide clinical spectrum– in prognosis, in diagnosis age, and in regards to symptoms in general.  I also think it is hard to present every facet of a disease in the short pages of a novel. And in truth, any book would pale in comparison of day-to-day living with a disease of this magnitude. My point is that this doesn’t seem like “one size fits all” situation, and I encourage you to check out the site that was provided to me. There are stories, as well as links to family’s stories and professional resources. I feel like the best thing to do in a situation like this is to educate ourselves, and I certainly intend to. I think that Lara did a great job being sensitive and not sensationalizing NPC, but it’s always worth learning more about conditions presented in books- I love that this one will promote awareness. Sammie’s story touched my heart, and so now does Debbie and Rachael’s. 

What was the last great book that you read that got you out of a slump? And of course, we must talk if you have read this one! 

Posted July 6, 2016 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in Let's Flail, Review / 40 Comments


40 responses to “Let’s Flail: The Memory Book by Lara Avery

  1. I have been on the fence about picking up this book. It sounds amazing and sad… maybe too sad. But I am so happy to find such a good review so now I can safely read (even if I’ll need tissues)

    • I mean, you WILL need the tissues, but it isn’t ALL sad- like, it is the good kind, at least for me? It’s hard to explain, but it’s like, sad, but then you find the beauty in life and such. Like that! I hope you love it!

  2. I tried a book by her in the past, but her writing wasn’t for me. I like that this is shedding light on an illness that’s not normally discussed in YA and I think it’s fascinating, but I’m scared of how it will make me feel. Sometimes, I worry with books like this one that I won’t connect to the characters and then feel like complete shit for not empathizing with them.
    If I find this at a library though, I’ll definitely skim to see if the writing is something I can get through.
    Lovely review, Shannon. I can tell this is a book that strongly resonated with you.

    • This is VERY different than A Million Miles Away- which I did like- but it is a completely different style altogether. I think it is definitely worth at least reading a couple chapters of, because it has a wholly different vibe. And thank you 😘

  3. THIS BOOK SOUNDS FANTASTIC. I am so intrigued in this now and I really want to read it. Sammie sounds like a great protagonist, and I like the concept of the book. With what you mentioned about the comment you received in Goodreads, it does seem kind of sad that the author downplayed the disorder 🙁 I guess that should be something to be improved, then. I still look forward to this one, so thanks Shannon for bringing this into my radar:)

    • Aw thanks! I don’t honestly think that the author DID downplay it, tbh. I mean, you’d have to read it of course, but it is heavy- I don’t think she sugarcoated it. Obviously she couldn’t list every single “day in the life” of this illness, because no one would want to read it, you know? I am sure for someone who lives it every day, of course it pales in comparison. But I don”t think that’s necessarily the author’s fault, you know? Anyway, I hope you enjoy it if you do read it 😀

  4. I AM KEEN TO READ THIS. Although it does make me sad that so often people are like “this is wrong because it’s not my experience”. Like I’d never say that Debbie person’s review was wrong (because I think she was really nice in how she said it! and obviously she has 1st hand experience) but I do think there are room for other experiences. You know? Hmm. ANYWAY. I HAVE THIS ON MY TBR AND WILL READ IT SOON AND I CAN’T WAIT YAYYYYY.

    • SAME, Cait. SAME. Like, she’s totally entitled to that opinion of course, but it doesn’t mean that the author was WRONG, just because it wasn’t the same! Which is why I spent half my night last night researching it myself 😂 I really hope you love it toooo!

  5. Ali

    I’m with Cait on this one. I get frustrated when people critique authors for stuff like that. It’s not the author’s job to please everyone out there who has to deal with that disease first hand. It’s not even the author’s job to accurately portray that disease. The author’s only obligation is to herself and to write the book she wants to write! She’s writing a work of FICTION! She can do whatever the heck she pleases! Anyway, I’ve heard good things about this book so far! Seems so incredibly sad, though.

    • Agreed! Definitely agreed. I had a hard time trying to find the “right” words here- because I DO appreciate that this woman has been through HELL. And as a mom, I get it. But the author really did do a responsible job, I feel.

      As for the book, it IS sad, but not ALL sad, you know? I really hope you enjoy it if you decide to read it!

  6. I wasn’t sure about this one at first, but I keep seeing amazing reviews for it. I’ll definitely have to give it a try. It sounds fantastic. Excellent review!

  7. danielle hammelef

    This reminds me of the book Flowers for Algernon. I want to read this emotional book. Thanks for the review.

  8. I swear, I must have been trapped my heart behind a brick wall day or something on the day I read this book because I am the ONLY person who didn’t love it. I loved the idea of it – and I loved the aspect that you talked about in your spoiler (I loved that A LOT), but I did not feel much of anything for Sammie – mostly because she was so emotionally detached, herself. I don’t know – I kind of teared up a little on the last page, but other than that, I just wasn’t feeling Sammie at all – and I felt kind of guilty about that!

    • BWHAHAH 😂 I know I have had books like that- that I swear I read a different book than everyone else! I do agree with you about Sammie, I can see how if you didn’t love her, the book wouldn’t be great- you do kind of have to be invested in HER to care what happens to her! It’s okay, I mean, I am the blackest sheep of all because I was not into Harry Potter so… yeah, you’re still fine 😉

  9. I want to read this so badly! I remember hearing about this book last month (I think) and I’ve been wanting to read it ever since. I’ve heard so many good things and it seems so heartbreaking and wonderful and AH, I need this book in my life. Wonderful review! <3

  10. Great review Shannon! I’m so glad you loved this book and that it got you out of your slump — #bestfeelingever

    The last truly great book I read was Every Exquisite Thing, which I keep talking up although it seems no on loved it like I did but I had that same thing as you — from the first page, I just KNEW!

  11. I’ve been looking forward to this ever since I first read the summary on Goodreads a while back, so I am so glad that it ends up being as good as it sounds. 🙂 It sounds like such an emotional and wonderfully written story and I love how family is such a huge focus in the story. Thanks for sharing Shannon and, as always, fabulous review! <3

  12. Sounds like a good read. The plot does sound familiar to some movie. But I cannot remember which one. Well, plot is not the only thing in a book. I love that you enjoyed the whole experience of it.

    Ad the last para- that woman must be going through alot. I can see how the book helped you to sympathise with her even more

  13. I can’t even imagine what the mother who commented and her daughter must be dealing with and the daily struggle to live beyond her illness. I completely agree with you Shannon, a fictional experience is only a fictional telling of one aspect, but won’t be everyone’s experience. It has to be said though, that fiction is watered down and although there’s an enormous amount of realism, it’s still fiction and not everyone will agree with how illness is portrayed. But wonderful review Shannon and sorry about the confrontation <3

    • I know, I felt SO badly, I certainly hate to think of anyone going through this. I mean, she was kind about it, I just felt so conflicted because I know she has her own experiences, but it also wasn’t fair to me that the author was like, being called out I guess. I was really not even sure how to handle it, so I hope I did it justice! Thank you so much 😀

  14. First off, based on your comment at the end…so the person thought the author downplayed the disease? I honestly didn’t get that feeling at all because it’s NOT all sunshine and roses, but at the same time, everyone experiences all diseases differently. Plus, the author makes it known that most people that get this disease develop it when they are younger right?

    Anyway, it’s always good to do research! I loved this one though. I just reviewed it the other day too. It’s just amazing. I highly recommend it to everyone!

    -Lauren

    • TOTALLY agree! Yes, she did think that, but like- I obviously disagreed. But I also felt for the woman, so I tried to be like… as nice as I could. And yes, she does make the diagnosis clear, that it’s usually at a younger age, and after I did some fact checking, it seems that everything she said was pretty on point! I am SO glad you loved this one too, I am off to read your review!

  15. This book somehow escaped my radar. It sounds really good. I think your spoiler might have sold me on getting this book, btw.
    I had no idea this disorder even existed, so this book has already clued one person in this memory disorder. I am gonna go check that website out. Thanks for including that interaction on goodreads in your review.
    Great review!

    • Oh YAY! I am so glad! I really hope you love it!

      And thank you, I do hope that it helped- I wasn’t sure if I should say anything, but I also didn’t want to ignore the woman’s comment, nor did I think she was out of line, I just wanted to kind of clear the air, as a reader and someone who definitely was unbiased, you know?

  16. This book was AMAZING!! It is going on my list of favorite books of the year. I had never, ever heard of this disease before. I had to look it up to verify that it was real. It felt like the author did her research though. I can’t imagine what it must be like to watch someone you love go through such a terrible illness. But I don’t feel the author downplayed it at all. I think she did a great job with it. The book was so beautiful and powerful and yeah, I totally felt like I was drowning in my own tears too.

  17. OMG. Shannon, how have we not flailed about this book together yet? I’m still such an emotional wreck from it. It was so good and powerful and OMG. I just need to read it again and again and again. And I need a movie. And everything. This book was just beyond perfect.

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