False Memory: A Review

Miranda wakes up on a park bench with no memory of how she got there. While some details–like her name–are perfectly clear, Miranda’s own reflection is a mystery. Worse, she soon realizes her amnesia is far from normal.

Panicked and alone, Miranda releases an energy that creates pure panic in almost everyone around her. One boy named Peter is immune. He also has answers.

Trusting Peter, Miranda soon learns she is part of an elite force–genetically engineered and trained to be a weapon. While her combat skills feel natural as they return to her, real memories are slower to come. Back home in her supposedly real life, Miranda feels like a stranger as she meets a boyfriend who did the unthinkable to “protect” her and handlers who seem to have even more unthinkable plans in store for Miranda and her friends in False Memory (2012) by Dan Krokos.

False Memory is the first in a series and also Krokos’ first novel.

If the summary didn’t make it clear enough, let me say right up front: False Memory is an action packed adventure filled with chases, fights and more twists than a stick of licorice.*

Krokos has created an interesting premise–teenagers with genetically altered brains able to induce fear–and works with it very successfully for the most part. Some of the science starts to seem more like pseudo-science but since False Memory is a work of fiction, that’s easy to forgive.

Problems with the plot and characters are harder to ignore.

While Krokos works well with Miranda’s checkered memories of her past, not to mention her growing understanding of her present and possible future, she often comes across as one-dimensional as she fails to venture far from the “amnesiac girl” identifier she receives in the beginning of the story.

The circumstances surrounding Miranda’s memory loss are also impossible to ignore. Or accept given the premise of the story.** (Follow the stars for a spoiler discussion.)

Readers looking for something beyond non-stop action and twists will be better served by another book. While Miranda is likable and more than capable, she always manages to come across as secondary to Noah and Peter–despite literally being the narrator of her own story–illustrating that it takes more than showing a female character doing kickass things and being tough/smart to make a strong female character. It takes depth too. Hopefully readers will get more of that in book two.

Regardless of who is taking the lead in the story, readers hoping to find an exciting read that is heavy on action and plot twists will not be disappointed here. Plus, the ending of False Memory points to even more shocks and adventure to be had in the sequel False Sight due out in 2013.

*Seriously, it’s twisty and turny fun from start to finish!

**SPOILERS AHEAD: We learn fairly early on that Miranda’s memory loss is a direct consequence of not getting her proper memory shots. The shots were altered. By her boyfriend. I kept reading the story waiting for some big reveal when I could say to myself, “Ah, I finally understand! That right there is why he changed Miranda’s shots. All is clear now.” But things never got clearer. Instead we learn that Noah absconded with Olive***, who stayed in possession of her memories, while he left Miranda stranded in a city with no memories of her life. Why? For her protection. To keep her safe. Miranda, even without any memory of her past, can induce heart-stopping panic, wield a combat staff and identify countless guns. She is great with a sword and hand-to-hand combat situations. So, let me ask you, dear readers, does this sound like a girl who needed anything done for her protection? That Noah has no other justification, no other logic is vaguely ridiculous and systematic of poor plotting. Miranda needed amnesia and this slap-dash logic on Noah’s part was somehow the best way to make that happen.

***Don’t even get me started on Olive. I’m assuming she is an Asian character between her long dark hair and almond eyes which are usually shorthand for minority character. Which is fine. Let’s talk about why the only secondary female character (who wasn’t evil) and the only minority character that I spotted (did you see others) was so quickly dispatched at the end of the story. It could easily have happened to a different character. It could easily have been skipped all together. So why, exactly, did it have to be Olive?

Possible Pairings: The Leaving by Tara Altebrando, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison, Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan, Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix, Divergent by Veronica Roth, Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2012*

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The Butterfly Clues: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Butterfly Clues by Kate EllisonPenelope “Lo” Marin has always liked order. Since her brother’s death Lo has needed more than her rituals to bring order to the chaos of day-to-day life. Her collections of beautiful things, arranged perfectly around her room, make Lo feel better. They’ll never erase the gaping hole her brother left behind, but they help clear her head. At least until she sees another item she has to have for her room. Then nothing will quiet her head until the object is hers.

Wandering Cleveland’s Neverland searching for traces of her brother’s last days as well as objects for her room, Lo stumbles upon something she was never meant to see.

It’s all tied to a beautiful butterfly charm she finds at a flea market and the butterfly’s last owner–a girl named Sapphire who was murdered days before the butterfly makes its way to Lo. Convinced that finding the butterfly means something, that she is connected to Sapphire against all odds, Lo works to unravel the mysterious circumstances surrounding Sapphire’s death.

The deeper Lo delves into the murder, the more questions she unearths. What does Sapphire have to do with the alluring street artist who seems so eager to help Lo? Why did someone want Sapphire dead?

If she keeps searching, Lo hopes ordering all of the clues will lead to an answer and give her (and Sapphire) some peace. But that’s going to be as hard as it is for Lo to keep her rituals in check when someone in Cleveland wants Lo’s investigation stopped for good in The Butterfly Clues (2012) by Kate Ellison.

The Butterfly Clues is Ellison’s first novel.

It becomes obvious early in the narrative that Lo’s collecting, rituals, and habits are symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Ellison does a good job making Lo a relatable heroine, habits and all, but that only goes so far when every page has Lo tapping or counting in some way to get through her day.

However, while Ellison delves into the whys behind Lo’s OCD behaviors for most of the novel, some of Lo’s choices make little sense given not just her OCD but also common sense.* Though many of these decisions are crucial to the plot, they often pulled me out of the narrative as I found myself wondering what Lo could possibly be thinking.

Lo is a generally likable and sympathetic narrator so it’s easy to let that go. Seeing her broken family and Lo’s struggle to keep her OCD in check is heartbreaking and extremely compelling.

Unfortunately a shaky plot does little to strengthen The Butterfly Clues. Parts of the story are drawn out and seemingly superfluous to the actual plot instead serving only to lengthen the text. On the other hand key aspects of the actual mystery are obvious early on as Lo explores Neverland. Ellison demonstrates a lot of range in this debut and while I would have liked more mystery and less OCD, The Butterfly Clues is a definite clue that Ellison is an author to watch.

*The idea that Lo would have no problem with the germs and dirt inherent to Neverland’s homeless community–even Flynt–seemed extremely unlikely to me. Other–more spoilery–moments also defied all believability for me.

Possible Pairings: Frost by Marianna Baer, Clarity by Kim Harrington, Slide by Jill Hathaway, Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith, Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten