The Memory Book, by Lara Avery, is the story of a girl who is diagnosed with Niemann-Pick C (NPC). I’m not the biggest fan of books based on illness. But this book was charmingly extraordinary and ideal for crying at 2:00 a.m.
The book is written by our main character, Samantha/ Sammie McCoy. She writes about having NPC. Which is a rare, life-threatening disease that will affect her motor functions, metabolism, cognition, and eventually it will steal her memories. In order to combat this, Sammie carries a laptop everywhere and writes down everything in her life. From talking to her guidance counselor about college to her long time crush, Stuart Shah.
Sammie is a smart girl, who has won countless debate awards and plans to graduate as Valedictorian. Her dream is to eventually move to New York and attend university there. She’s determined to overcome her illness and not let it stop her. She makes lists about “Future Sam”, who is a mature and successful young woman, who is living out her best life. But instead of looking forward to “Future Sam”, we slowly watch Sammie deteriorate. She starts to forget things, At first, she loses the debate championship, after forgetting where she is. And decides it’s best not to tell her debate partner/ best friend, about her disease. But she does tell her old childhood friend, Cooper Lind.
Even though she lost the debate championship, she is determined her life will be fine. Starting off with telling Stuart that she likes him and eventually becoming his girlfriend. This is great until Sammie is forced to tell him about her disease which she’s been hiding for months. Stuart handles it greatly and is attentive and caring. But he’s stressed about it and feeling less like a boyfriend and more like a caretaker.
As this is happening, she begins to have more frequent episodes. She forgets about her little sister’s existence, the names of her pets, and even where she is while driving to a party. You can feel her frustration and confusion in her writing. And it’s completely heartbreaking. Especially, reading about her family seeing all of this. Watching how her little brother’s confused when she brushed her teeth 3 times in a row, or her parents crying in the living room. But the upside of all this happening is that she’s grown closer to Cooper. They even manage to rebuild their friendship and admit their feelings to each other.
This resulted in a fight between Stuart and Cooper, when Stuart found them sleeping together. This was my least favorite part since cheating (even if you’re sick) is not okay. But you can feel Sammie’s emotions, and how this disease is making her unsure of who she loves and who she thought she loved. She eventually breaks up with Stuart and goes to Cooper. There’s this huge scene, where she shows up at his work. Then goes on the intercom and tells him how she’s sorry and that she loves him. It’s a light-hearted and satisfying scene. It almost feels like the book should end right there.
But it doesn’t. Instead, we are cheerfully greeted by Cooper, who is writing a few pages explaining how he fell in love with Sammie. And how she had a seizure and was sent into shock. This part made my stomach drop. But luckily, Cooper wrote that Sammie woke up and is talking. There are a few cute pages of Cooper and Sammie leaving each other notes via computer/memory book. But there are also some parts, where Sammie doesn’t even recognize Cooper and asks why he’s there. But she eventually remembers and leaves the line “Coop I don’t know what I would do without you. I’m really happy- Sammie”
The next pages are characters writing in the book their favorite memory with Sammie. Again I thought the book was over, and that Sammie is okay. But then my eyes froze on the last page. It’s a single paragraph, a note really, from Cooper. It talks about how Sammie is now gone, and how his favorite memory is this entire book since it’s a recording of her life. My heart shattered when I read this and I started sobbing. Because the emotions you feel during this book are so genuine. You feel as if you watched Sammie grow, and learn to experience her life. You watch her chase after her dreams and connect with her friends. You watch her fix her mistakes and become a better person. Although you don’t see Sammie dying in her entries. You can put it together from Cooper’s note.
This book is definitely a tragic, romance book. But I felt as if the romance and “love triangle’ were a bit too forced. I also felt like her death was so sudden and how we barely saw Sammie at this point. But I understand why the author didn’t do that. This is Sammie’s book. It’s Sammie’s life, and she can’t document her own death.
The Memory Book by Lara Avery is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.