Friday, July 29, 2011

Forgotten by Cat Patrick

Every night before sixteen year old London Lane goes to sleep, she writes a note to herself outlining the things of importance that happened that day: she found out about a test tomorrow, she wore a certain outfit to school, she had a fight with her mother. This is necessary because her memory is wiped while she sleeps, and she wakes up not remembering a single thing that happened before.

This is already a fairly tricky concept, but Cat Patrick makes her debut novel Forgotten even trickier. Not only does London not remember what happened in the past, she does “remember” what will happen in the future. So she’ll know the answers to tomorrow’s test today, but as soon as tomorrow actually arrives, she won’t even know there was a test scheduled in the first place – unless she leaves herself a note.

I don’t know if there is a way to tell this story and manage to avoid gigantic plot holes. Patrick doesn’t find a way to do it, but she’s still crafted a heck of an absorbing read, so I was able to suspend my disbelief a little more than I’m normally willing to.

Of course, there’s more to the story than just London surviving high school with her condition without anyone catching on. (Her mother and her best friend are two of the few people who know about it.) One day, London meets Luke, a cute boy at her school, but she doesn’t have any future memories of him. Knowing her condition, she concludes that this means she won’t ever see him again. If she did, she would “remember” it.

Except she does see him again. And she continues to see him, and even starts to date him, all without ever remembering him. There is clearly something different about Luke.

And then there’s that strange memory that keeps invading London’s mind – a memory of a funeral sometime in the future, where London sees a number of friends and family members and feels a deep sense of sorrow. Whose funeral will it be? And can London prevent the death from happening?

The twin mysteries of Luke and the funeral propel the story forward. London’s relationship with Luke is sweet – she manages to convince him she remembers him day after day by keeping meticulous notes of their conversations – although it does get a little tiresome to hear her remark on how hot he is every time she meets him. Frustratingly, and this may be a bit of a spoiler so stop reading now if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing, the mystery behind Luke is never fully explained. He does have a secret, but it doesn’t have anything to do with why London doesn’t remember him in her future – that part is never explained. I could get over so many of the other problems with the concept, but this one made me a little crazy.

The mystery concerning the funeral memory is handled better. I’ve read several accounts of readers being blindsided by what they perceived as a “twist” near the end of the book, but it seemed to me like a perfectly rational explanation for the clues Patrick had placed throughout the novel. I suppose what I mean is that I treated this book as much more of a traditional mystery than others may have – I expected there to be a major solution near the end and felt the answer Patrick gave us worked well. It was logical (within the context of London’s condition, at least), fit all of the clues, and packed a pretty good emotional punch as well.

Patrick has a real sense of urgency to her writing style, making this a page turner that I wanted to finish in a single sitting. She also gave me a good sense of London’s character – I felt like I knew her, and as a result I sympathized with her and rooted for her. Overall, Forgotten is a strong debut. Even less than careful readers will pick up on its problems, but it’s enjoyable and engrossing nonetheless.

Review copy picked up at TLA. Forgotten is available now.

3 comments:

  1. That there was no explanation for the not remembering Luke part drove me crazy too! But I really enjoyed the novel on the whole.

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  2. Interesting...sounds vaguely similar to Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson which was also recently released (and faced similar issues with plot holes thanks to the main conceit). It was still inherently readable though, despite its flaws, so I might check this one out as well.

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  3. Wait, but didn't the problems drive you completely batty? This book was too frustrating for me, even though the premise is so interesting.

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