Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Griffin for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: September 6th, 2016
Synopsis: On the morning of September 11,2001, sixteen-year-old Kyle Donohue watches the first twin tower come down from the window of Stuyvesant High School. Moments later, terrified and fleeing home to safety across the Brooklyn Bridge, he stumbles across a girl perched in the shadows. She is covered in ash and wearing a pair of costume wings. With his mother and sister in California and unable to reach his father, a New York City detective likely on his way to the disaster, Kyle makes the split-second decision to bring the girl home. What follows is their story, told in alternating points of view, as Kyle tries to unravel the mystery of the girl so he can return her to her family. But what if the girl has forgotten everything, even her own name? And what if the more Kyle gets to know her, the less he wants her to go home?
This is the second YA book I’ve recently read centered around 9/11 and while it stirred up some strong emotions, it’s beautifully told. Gae Polishner’s writing is so elegantly descriptive that the events that I felt as though I was part of the story. The book starts with New Yorkers fleeing across the Brooklyn Bridge and I was immediately swept back to that unbelievable moment of watching residents desperately trying to escape the carnage on the tv. Because of Polishner’s evocative writing, you can feel the confusion and blind panic of that day when dense clouds of smoke, ash and debris seemed to obscure everyone and everything in sight and nowhere seemed to be safe. The story itself is told from both Kyle and this unnamed girl who he rescues and brings home. Their voices are very distinctive from one another and while I loved Kyle, it was the girl’s voice which drew out the most emotional reaction from me. You can’t help but feel her raw pain and confusion as she struggles to remember who she is. Both of them wind up making an immense personal journey in the course of just a few days. In the end, The Memory of Things is a haunting coming-of-age story send against the backdrop of one of the most tragic days in history. I recommend this to anyone who lived through 9/11 as well as today’s teens who were not yet born. If you do read this, please also read the author’s afterward in which she relates how and why she came to write this. Her experience adds even more to the story.