Sunday, June 7, 2015

Review: The Memory Hit by Carla Spradbery

Title: The Memory Hit
Author: Carla Spradbery
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
Published Date: 4 June 2015
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository

I received this book through NetGalley from Hachette Children's Book for review.

On New Year's Eve, Jess's life is unrecognizable: her best friend is in the hospital, her boyfriend is a cheater. A drug-dealing cheater it would seem, after finding a stash of Nostalgex in his bag.

Nostalgex: a drug that stimulates memory. In small doses, a person can remember the order of a deck of cards, or an entire revision guide read the day before an exam. In larger doses it allows the user detailed access to their past, almost like watching a DVD with the ability to pause a moment in time, to focus on previously unnoticed details and to see everything they've ever experienced with fresh eyes. As Leon, the local dealer, says 'it's like life, only better.' What he fails to mention is that most memories are clouded by emotions. Even the most vivid memories can look very different when visited.

Across town Sam Cooper is in trouble. Again. This time, gagged and bound in the boot of a car. Getting on the wrong side of a drug dealer is never a good idea, but if he doesn't make enough money to feed and clothe his sister, who will?

On New Year's Day, Jess and Cooper's worlds collide. They must put behind their differences and work together to look into their pasts to uncover a series of events that will lead them to know what really happened on that fateful New Year's Eve. But what they find is that everything they had once believed to be true, turns out to be a lie...
(summary from Goodreads)

The Memory Hit is an in your face, wham bam, over before you know it, read.

That's an accurate description. From page one, The Memory Hit is go, go, go. It's a quick read, and with so much action going on, this one is kind of the epitome of fast paced. Spradbery throws you right in and it's a scramble to catch up. In a way, this works. You're in much the same boat as the characters, trying to put things together. But it can also be confusing and frustrating, and as such, hard to truly get into the flow of the story. For the most part, I found The Memory Hit an entertaining read. Spradbery hits on some compelling elements, like abuse, drug addiction and arson. Her writing is chilling. She really knows how to evoke fear, anger and desperation. I especially found her scenes describing arson and Whiteface terrifying. What didn't work is the whole idea surrounding the drug Nostalgex. This drug allows one to relive memories, but here's the thing - many times throughout the novel Spradbery's characters are hit with memories that are as clear to them as if they occurred only yesterday without the use of Nostalgex. So I just kept asking myself, why was this drug even necessary? So much of The Memory Hit is reliant on past memories, but I don't think it has quite the intended effect.

While The Memory Hit is a wild and entertaining ride, the biggest downside is a lack of connection. I enjoyed Spradbery's story, it kept me hooked and at times had my heart speeding up. But I never felt invested in her characters. Being thrown into the deep end and focusing on a lot of action means never really getting to know these characters or feeling the bonds between them that are meant to fuel the emotion of the story. The twist when it comes is pretty huge, but ultimately its somewhat lackluster because I didn't feel for the characters. I can see the effect Spradbery intended - one that is shocking, disturbing and tragic - and it could have been awesome. It's just not though. If I'd loved Jess and Cooper, if I'd believed in their relationship, it might have been different. There's just not enough relatability or emotion evoked for these characters, so an ending that should have ideally been one to haunt you after finishing The Memory Hit, simply falls flat. 

The Memory Hit is a good read. There's enough going on to keep you entertained to the end, but it's missing that little something that leaves you feeling hit in the solar plexus and likely to never forget it.



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