Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Memento Nora Review: Diva Schuyler

Memento Nora by Angie Smibert
"A teen struggles to hold onto her memories--and her identity--in a world that wants everyone to forget--and keep on shopping. Three dynamic teens come together to create a comic book of their memories." ~from

 Nora James is into having "glossy" days: ones spent shopping for the latest trends, watching her favorite shows, and spending time with friends just like her. So when she witnesses an event that won't leave her mind, she wants to go back to being glossy--by going, as so many do, to a Therapeutic Forgetting Clinic (or TFC). Only once she's there, she decides she doesn't want to forget. This decision leads her to find different friends and learn truths about the world around her--scary things. With the help of new friends Micah and Winter, she embarks on a project to write these truths. Thus, an underground comic called "Memento" (meaning "remember") is born. 

This slim novel charts the path of the three main characters, Nora, Micah, and Winter, in turn. Despite the grim reality of the world around the teens, Smibert inserts flashes of humor and also a celebration--of art and its power to heal and to revolutionize. The underground comic is a notable example, but there is also sculpture, architecture, graffiti and tattoo art. Reading this book made me want to read more about these types of expression, and make more of it, too.

All three of the main characters are compelling and very different from one another. Yet as the book progresses we see factors that tie them together, as each sees the way the other lives and thinks. This is often showed through the sharing of memories. As a reader, I pondered my own memories, and how it has felt to share the more traumatic ones with others. It has often left me feeling more whole, and closer to the person with whom I've shared. In Memento Nora's world of forgetting, there would be no such cathartic moments. There would be no real therapeutic times--just a pill to take the bad thoughts away.

As a person with PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder), I had to think very hard about whether I'd want a pill to forget. PTSD has harsh symptoms like nightmares, flashbacks, and acute anxiety. There are days when these symptoms are strong, when I know the temptation to go to a Therapeutic Forgetting Clinic would be a terrible struggle. However, my memories--even the traumatic ones--are also what helps me to understand myself and others. Without that, I'd just be...glossy. Without cares, but also without the capacity to be truly caring.

Memento Nora is a dystopian book that has at its heart the meaning of friendship. The meaning of what it takes to care about people and the world around you. I personally loved it, and since it's to be a trilogy, am ready for more!

 Think the world of Memento Nora is far away? Take a look at this article from MSNBC: 
"Pill Could Help You Forget Bad Memories"


  1. Sounds like a great read for teens. I don't like the cover much, but if it makes you want to read the others in the trilogy, it must be good. I don't think I'd want to erase my memories. Memories make us unique, but it's a nice concept for a book for sure.

  2. I do think it's a great teen read. Reluctant readers might like it, since it's under 200 pages (184, to be exact). The book will also appeal to younger teens--it's for ages 13+. Also, some libraries and schools are running with the the comic idea and having kids make their own--so cool!

    Check out this event from the Portland library:

    I agree, memories make us unique. No two people really remember the same event the same way, either.

    ~Diva Schuyler

  3. "...there would be no such cathartic moments. There would be no real therapeutic times--just a pill to take the bad thoughts away."

    i think this is the appeal of alcohol and narcotics -that we can take something and bliss out, not worry about it for another day. that's a very scary thought - how would we learn, how would we grow, how would our experiences make us stronger? i understand the urge, but i think that's a human weakness that we all have to fight against - the desire to feel no pain (to quote one of my favorite authors - out of context - to have a world where "everything is beautiful and nothing hurts.") that'd be nice, but that's not life.

    great review, schuyler!


  4. Thanks, Missy, for your thoughtful comment. Indeed, the "forgetting pill" is very much like alcohol and drugs. With that pill, there's not a hangover--it's a "clean" forgetting, which is even more chilling. At least with a hangover and other consequences from alcohol and drugs, there's some repercussions to forgetting.

    Learning, growing, and experiences making us stronger would be a sad loss with the forgetting pill, as they are right now with heavy alcohol/drug use. Masking the deep pain in us also masks other deep feelings--like joy. To be fully alive, feeling our feelings fully, is to know that everything is not beautiful and things do hurt. Even happiness sometimes hurts--there's a reason for the word bittersweet; and on the opposite end, pain can feel so right--the sad songs, the melancholy poets, speak straight to our soul--and it is glorious.

    That is life in all its richness.

    Thanks again, Missy, for checking out the blog, and for commenting!

  5. I read that article you posted from MSNBC and my mind is REELING right now! I can't believe that this kind of medication could actually become available on the market. PS: Am I the only one that found it... not funny, but interesting... that they measured this test by showing people a picture of a spider and then SHOCKING them?? A very interesting method indeed...
    Besides the connection to that article, this "novella" seems interesting! I may have to check it out... I seem to only be enjoying Dystopian reads at the moment.
    - Alyssa of Redhead Heroines

  6. I was completely freaked out by the shocking. That is not a scientific study I would've stayed with! And indeed, the medicine is completely mind-boggling. I already take a medicine that helps with nightmares. The memory pill is not far behind. Nightmares seem to come in cycles, so it's not so bad to take medication to be able to sleep more deeply and function better during those cycles. But taking away painful memories is not something I desire. They're painful for a REASON. Even if the reason is we're just not past them yet, and have to find out why.

    If you're enjoying dystopian reads, this is a great one to check out, since it's such a small commitment in terms of reading time (although the sequels are forthcoming!). Enjoy, and let us know if you like it!

    ~Diva Schuyler