Sunday, April 24, 2022

The Memory Thief

The Memory Thief
by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Recommended Ages: 11+

Rosie Oaks has always been a quiet girl – a trait that saved her life on the night she was born. She has grown up with a single mother who doesn't know how to show her love, and her only friend – a tomboyish force of nature known as Germ – seems to be growing in directions Rosie can't follow. Her defining gift has always been her imagination for making up stories. Then one day, after taking to heart some criticism from Germ, she burns every story she ever wrote. Somehow, this changes something inside her. At first she thinks it's just growing up, accepting that there's "no magic to speak of" in the world. But then she starts to see and hear ghosts.

There are ghosts everywhere. One of my favorite scenes in the book is an overwhelming experience at Rosie's 105-year-old school, which is just loaded with ghosts. The ones in her house show her the ropes a bit – particularly a boy ghost named Ebb, who recognizes something in Rosie that she doesn't see herself. He guides her to a book, and a quiver of magical weapons, from which Rosie learns that she is descended from a long line of Oaks women who all had the sight, and who hunted and fought against the 13 evil witches that bring darkness on the world. She also realizes that her mom is under a curse from a witch known as the Memory Thief, and the only way to lift the curse is to destroy the witch who laid it. With the witches already on notice that another Oaks has developed the sight, she won't have long to figure out how to fight an evil being that's scarcely more substantial than a ghost. Whatever weapon she has to fight with, its power must come from Rosie's heart. And Rosie's heart already has a hard enough time believing there's magic anywhere, especially within her.

Parents who are alert to what their kids put into their heads will appreciate the Occult Content Advisory I've put on this book, whose theory of magic involves a moon goddess and various other kinds of spirits. However, I think they'll also find that the ghosts, cloud shepherds, phantom insects and a certain sea creature that keeps its maw furnished as a cozy parlor, are rather unlike the nature spirits one encounters in mainstream paganism, New Ageism or Wicca. Indeed, the witches in this scenario are all bad, ferociously bad, and difficult to destroy. Hints are dropped of a dualistic concept of the world, where good and evil are opposed to each other but kind of depend on each other at the same time. Christian moms and dads may want to be prepared to discuss these themes rather than let them work on their kids' worldview unchallenged. I think the way forward, for all families to appreciate this book together, is to recognize it as a therapeutic fantasy for children whose home lives are affected by mental illness and related issues, or how it models the use of imagination as a way find joy in the midst of sadness.

This is one of those books that would be easy to confuse with a bunch of other books. There's The Memory Thief by Rachel Morgan, book 1 of her "City of Wishes" series; The Memory Thief by Lauren Mansy, a YA fantasy; The Memory Thief by Bryce Moore, a children's book; The Memory Thief by Emily Colin, a romance novel; The Memory Thief by Don Donaldson, a thriller; The Memory Thief by Rachel Keener, a work of literary fiction; A "Memory Thief" series by Sarina Dorie, starting with a book titled The Memory Thief; A "Memory Thief" trilogy by Nik Korpon; A Thief in the House of Memory by Tim Wynne-Jones; Amelia Fang and the Memory Thief by Laura Ellen Anderson, part of a series of children's books; and maybe more – those are just the titles that turn up in a search of Fantastic Fiction. I guess the way to tell this book apart is that it's book 1 of the "Thirteen Witches" series, of which a second book, The Sea of Always, just came out on April 5, 2022. Jodi Lynn Anderson is also the author of the "May Bird" and "Peaches" trilogies and the novels Loser/Queen, Tiger Lily, The Vanishing Season (also easily confused with at least two other novels), The Moment Collector, My Diary from the Edge of the World, Midnight at the Electric and Each Night Was Illuminated.

1 comment:

Cuda said...

Good review. Inteeresting how many Memory Thief's there are out there.