Middle Grade Monday: The Memory Keeper by Jennifer Camiccia

I was super excited when I was granted access to an eARC to The Memory Keeper by Jennifer Camiccia. It follows a girl named Lulu who has a Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory. This is an incredibly uncommon phenomenon but it was such a fascinating concept to center the story around. If you don’t know what HSAM is, it essentially means that Lulu remembers every second of her life.

Lulu lives with her parents, little brother, and grandmother. She had a younger sister who I think passed away from SIDs but it wasn’t explicitly stated. Her parents have struggled immensely with this and on top of that her mother is dealing with postpartum depression as well. So Lulu leans on her grandmother heavily, which makes it even scarier when her grandma starts having problems with her memory. When Lulu realizes the scope of her own memory, she tries to collect her grandmother’s in order to help her in day to day life. Lulu wonders if the reason that her grandmother is losing her memory is because of a traumatic event, just as a traumatic event can trigger HSAM, she reads that it could also trigger memory loss. So Lulu goes in search of her grandmother’s past in order to save her memory and save her family.

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So I loved this book. Absolutely loved it. Was it super realistic? No, but it was emotional and heartfelt and deep while at the same time balanced with lighthearted jokes and fun friendship moments. Memory issues are a hard topic for me and I couldn’t help but get emotional a lot throughout this book. I know a few people that have dealt with or are dealing with Alzheimers and I myself have dealt with a great deal of memory loss due to mental health problems. It was painful to see how much Lulu was scared of losing her grandma if anyone found out what she was struggling with.

There was also quite a candid discussion of postpartum depression and grief and it was hard to see how Lulu struggled with her relationship with her parents but eye opening to read from the side of a child in a situation like this.

The side “quest” I guess is what I would call it that followed Lulu and her friends, Max and Olivia, in trying to also uncover Lulu’s grandma’s past was too funny. They took their roles of detectives so seriously and I really enjoyed seeing how their relationships developed and changed as the book progressed. I genuinely loved each of the characters in this book and it warmed my heart to see them heal even just a little by the time the book ended.

Another thing that I really loved about this book was that each chapter opened with a short description of some part of the brain and how it functions. Considering the book centered around a story in which the brain and memory was a central feature, I thought this was really interesting! It was educational and easy to understand and I really liked that.

This book felt reminiscent of The Ghost Collector  in that both main characters are dealing with something really difficult and are doing everything in their power to fix what they are struggling with. I highly recommend both.

 

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Middle Grade Monday: Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Happy Monday and welcome to a new series on Adventures With A Side Of Espresso!

Ever since I created my The Books That Shaped Me (1, 2, 3) posts I have wanted to reread and read so many middle grade books. So without further ado, welcome to the first ever Middle Grade Monday!! This is going to be a series published on random Mondays where I discuss either middle grade books that I have reread or new books that I have picked up. I’m really excited to do this!

And if you have no idea what middle grade is, well that’s the category of books that is geared towards kids aged 8-12!

So when I was in third grade, I picked up Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix from my elementary school library and it very quickly became my new favorite book. I read it once a year after that until I was finished with elementary school and recently picked up my own copy of it from a thrift store so I had to reread it. Margaret Peterson Haddix has so many unique books that I highly recommend checking out any of them if you’re interested in reading middle grade books.

In picking up this to reread I was really interested in seeing if this book held up. It was originally published in 1995 and I think that’s going to be my main purpose in rereading books.

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Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Jessie lives with her family in the frontier village of Clifton, Indiana. When diphtheria strikes the village and the children of Clifton start dying, Jessie’s mother sends her on a dangerous mission to bring back help. But beyond the walls of Clifton, Jessie discovers a world even more alien and threatening than she could have imagined, and soon she finds her own life in jeopardy. Can she get help before the children of Clifton, and Jessie herself, run out of time?

Basically, Jessie has grown up for her entire life believing that she’s living in the 1800’s and when kids within her village begin getting sick, Jessie’s mom reveals to her that it’s actually 1996 and they are living in an historical tourist attraction. Now, put yourself into the shoes of a nine year old… Is this not a mind-blowing concept or what??

In terms of this holding up today, I think it does. There are some offhand comments about “Indians” but in looking at this as if the main character in the book was living in the 1800’s, well, it’s a good learning point to explain why viewpoints have changed since then. I found reading this to be stressful even as an adult and I already knew every twist and turn that this book took! And I wish that I could say that this book wouldn’t hold up because of the outrageous concept but like cults happen and other crazy stuff happens even now which still just blows my mind what people can get away with.

If you know of any kids that are into fast paced and stressful books, this is a dang good thriller. It’s 184 pages but it packs a punch, there isn’t a single dull moment in the entire thing. 5/5 stars!

Oh and then, as I was talking to my mom about this book the other day when we were forcing my brothers to pick out books to read at the library she told me that there’s a movie based around this sort of concept too. So catch me watching The Village pretty soon now because I really want to see a cinematic version of this. It still amazes me how much of an impact a book that I read 10+ years ago can have on me even today. I highly recommend.