I was provided a review copy by Adaptive Studios through Edelweiss, and since my pre-teens and I enjoy reading MG fiction together, I gladly agreed to share my thoughts.
First of all, this book does not shy away from describing the brutal impact of divorce on young children. The arguments and yelling that the main character clearly overhears from his parents are shared as an everyday occurrence in their household, including the parents’ discussion on divorce proceedings. The main character (Ben) and his twin sister also reference other divorces that they have known about from their classmates. So, while the offer of the “memory artist” would have been an excellent springboard for a fantastical MG adventure, Ben chooses instead to request that his parents’ memories be altered with the hope of preventing a divorce.
Wow, that alone squeezed my heart and elevated my respect for middle grade kids. They are more emotionally mature than we give them credit for. I know that teens in general are egocentric by nature, but so are we as adults, especially if we refuse to work things out within a difficult marriage.
Of course things go downhill pretty fast. That’s what happens when we mask the truth, or when we build upon a lie. Stealing memories is basically laying a foundation of untruth. But this is what made the story crazy entertaining and stressful at the same time. Things got really sticky and complicated, and it took a lot of storytelling talent and maturity for the author to keep everything tied together and sensible. The story ends with a satisfying ending.
Honestly, I previously thought that nothing can beat the concept of a pensieve (Dumbledore’s version of a basin to store random thoughts and memories). However, the prospect of trading, bartering, loaning, or exchanging memories among various people kind of trumps the pensieve. The storage place doesn’t have to be an object, it can be other people’s minds! Of course, a disaster will ensue, but the concept is fascinating and intriguing.
This was a great read that can be enjoyed as a family. It provided for a meaningful discussion afterwards.