The Memory Book by Lara Avery

The Memory Book by Lara Avery

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.

-Ashley Y.

The Memory Book by Lara Avery is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Be More Chill By Ned Vizzini

Are you a teenager who feels like they don’t fit in, or like you aren’t cool enough to date your teenage crush?  Do you run with the geeky crowd but pine away wanting to be a part of the popular crowd?  Do you need to be more chill? If so, this is the perfect book for you.  Be More Chill was published June 1, 2004 by American author Ned Vizzini.  It is a modern take on the perils of what can happen when you are not true to your authentic self.  Be more Chill is a hilarious yet mature read with adult themes that is not appropriate for all teens.  However, Vizzini’s message is attention-grabbing, so much so that Be More Chill was adapted as a musical with original music and lyrics by Joe Iconis.  Be More Chill, the musical, premiered off Broadway in 2015, followed by a Broadway run in 2018.  Unfortunately, plans for London and Chicago productions have subsequently either been cut short or cancelled due to the Covid 19 pandemic.  

Be More Chill (Broadway Tie-In) by Ned Vizzini, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

Ned Vizzini’s novel, Be More Chill, is a story about a highschool boy named Jeremy Heere.  Jeremy is an outsider and a loser amongst his popular classmates.  He is bullied and picked on by his peers and has only one true friend to console him, Michael Mell.  Michael is also part of the loser crew but unlike Jeremy he is happy, content, and comfortable with himself.  Jeremy dreams of dating his crush Christine Canegula, but unfortunately cannot work up the nerve to approach her.  Jeremy obsessively looks for a way to get Christine’s attention without making a fool of himself.  Despite his notion that signing up for the school play is a “sign-up sheet for getting called gay,” he decides to go for it as a ploy to get Christine’s attention.  He quickly learns that Christine’s focus is on the school play and not on Jeremy.  Hurt and defeated, Jeremy is vulnerable to taking advice from his worst enemy and tormenter, Rich Goranski.  Rich gives Jeremy a “get cool quick” scheme.  Rich tells Jeremy about a top secret experimental pill created by Sony called a SQUIP (Super Quantum Unit Intel Processor).  Rich explains that the pill size supercomputer can teach you how to be cool and convinces Jeremy that, if he swallows the SQUIP pill, he will no longer be a loser.  Jeremy gets his hands on a SQUIP and mayhem ensues.   Jeremy finds himself the popular center of attention.  He attends all the cool parties and finds himself making out with all the hot girls.  At first Jeremy loves reaping the benefits of the SQUIP, but soon he learns that being cool isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Bad behavior has lasting consequences.  At risk of losing his best friend and losing  any chance of connecting with the girl of his dreams, Jeremy has to make tough decisions and repair the damage that his SQUIP intoxication creates.   

Amazon.com: Be More Chill (9780786809967): Vizzini, Ned: Books

Be More Chill is a satire of the teenage high school experience as told from the perspective of an overly awkward, dorky, and anxiety-prone Jeremy.  It is mostly hilarious because Jeremy’s character is over exaggerated to the point of being almost ridiculous.  In some ways the story is sad because Jeremy is so paralyzed by his lack of self esteem that he can’t approach the girl he loves and is willing to trade his best friend for being cool.  He seems pathetic.  The concept of a pill sized super-computer as the “drug of choice” for transformation is interesting especially as it reveals to Jeremy that we do not win when we are not true to ourselves.  I feel like this is a lesson we all know and have read and re-read from a variety of perspectives. Ned Vizzini couches his version of the lesson in mature themes including drugs, sex, and violence that are at times shocking and disturbing.  That someone thought to turn this into a musical seems equally as shocking but also brilliant.  Unfortunately, the novel’s end is abrupt and a disappointment, as there is no real redemption for Jeremy.  The reader is left feeling that Jeremy has really learned very little and is still, unfortunately, a loser. 

-Johnson D.

Be More Chill by Ned Vizzini is available as a free download through Overdrive.

How We Roll by Natasha Friend

How We Roll by Natasha Friend is a coming of age story of a young teenager named Quinn who must deal with something very few have to: she is bald. As an eighth grader, she was diagnosed with alopecia, and lost all of her hair. Unfortunately, the kids at school made constant fun of her, and she slowly lost her closest friends. She got a fresh start when her family decided to move in order to have her brother Julius, who has autism, attend a special school. In a new school now, Quinn decides to wear her wig permanently in the hopes that she will be treated nicely. Fortunately, she finds a group of girls who quickly adopt her into their friend group.

In addition to these friends, Quinn meets a boy named Nick. Once the star football player, he lost both of his legs in a car accident. In the grueling recovery process, Nick has become silent and recluse. However, Quinn and him make an unlikely bond that is strong enough for Quinn to reveal her secret and for Quinn to keep pushing Nick to the road to recovery. With a beautiful ending, I would say that this book is for anyone looking for a touching story.

Personally, I enjoy novels with either fantasy or adventure, but this one was a great contrast to my typical repertoire. Quinn’s personality was real; one could feel her happiness, anger, success, and fear. Her character was like any other teenager trying to fit in among her peers, and her ability to forgive her previous tormentors took a great deal of maturity. The friendship between her and Nick also showed how she grew as a person. In the novel, Quinn’s family was the backdrop for the story, and it was beautiful to see her interacting with her parents and little brother. Overall, I would recommend this book for anyone looking for a feel-good read.

-Anmol K.

How We Roll by Natasha Friend is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Variant by Robinson Wells

Variant, written by Robinson Wells, is a well-written mystery/ thriller novel. The book follows Benson Fisher, a foster child who grew up in Pittsburgh. In the story, Benson applies to a private school and gets in! But this is not a regular school. Even though this school is very nice, has good food, and nice people, it also has no teachers or gangs, and the school is completely isolated from any outside world interactions.

When I first started reading this book, I immediately thought it was really good. Wells introduces you to the characters, the school, and the story easily and naturally. I also loved all of the twists and turns in this book; they definitely add to the storyline.

Benson begins to get used to life at the school. He has new friends, eats great food, and even begins to like a girl, Jane. But, just as life is beginning to become comfortable, it goes downhill. One night, Benson and Jane decide to go out for a walk. During the walk, the two get attacked from behind and Benson is knocked out. When Benson wakes up, he finds Jane’s beaten body. Worse yet, she turns out to not even be human but an android!

When I first figured this out, I was so shocked! I did not expect this twist at all and when it came, it blew me away! Because of all the twists, I never knew what was coming or what to trust. This was a major factor in why I liked this book so much.

After this major twist, Benson cannot stand his school and tries to recruit people to escape. The small group of rebels all tries to escape but only Benson and his friend Becky succeed. The book ends with an injured Benson and Becky left alone in the forest.

I enjoyed this book so much and really look forward to reading the sequel. My favorite character is Benson because he is always loyal and never gives up. Thrilling and exciting, Variant is a great novel for eighth graders and above.

-Daniel C.

Variant by Robinson Wells is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

Have you ever thought of having a special ability to find bodies? Well, the first book in the series called The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting is an intense mystery thriller about a 16 year old named Violet Ambrose. Violet and her best friend Jay Heaton are both juniors in high school and she has fallen for him. Jay knows about Violet’s special ability to find bodies and “echoes” ever since they were little. When Violet was a little girl, she had the ability to find and sense dead animals near her and also figure out who killed them. When she senses someone who killed someone she calls them echos, which are sounds or visions that grab her attention.

During the summer, Violet and Jay went to a party at the lake and she discovered a human body for the first time. Later on, she found more missing girls and she tracks down the murder with the help of  Jay. Jay and Violet’s family are both worried about Violet meeting the man who has been killing the missing girls and it’s very shocking and suspenseful. But, you have to read the book to find out what happens next.

I think this book was a good read because it was entertaining to read with the suspense and thriller plot. It is an interesting book and I liked how the book involves solving a mystery with a character with special abilities and a bit romance included. Also, I liked how the chapters included the serial killers point of view. I recommend this book for teens who like mystery books and wants a good book that’s entertaining. The next book in this series is called Desires of the Dead and you can find out what happens next.

The Body Finder series by Kimberly Derting is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library