In Review: The Forgetting

You must remember to read this book before it's too late!

The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron 

Published by Scholastic Press, September 13, 2016. Jacketed hardcover of 416 pages at $18.99. Also available as an ebook and audio book. 

NOTE: I read an advanced copy so anything may have changed by publication.

The cover: A tree losing its flowers is a good symbol to represent what the unfortunate inhabitants of Canaan endure every twelve years, as they lose their memories. However, artist Michael Heath has included a sinister element into his artwork: the roots of the tree are wrapped around the title of the book, suggesting that something lies underneath the Forgetting, something that cannot be forgotten. Excellent imagery by Heath, with strong violets giving the cover a fanciful tone. The jacket design is by Elizabeth B. Parisi. Overall grade: A

The premise: From the inside jacket, “Nadia lives in the city Canaan, where life is safe and structured, hemmed in by white stone walls and no memory of what came before. But every twelve years the city descends into the bloody chaos of the Forgetting, a day of no consequences and no remorse, when each person’s memories — of parents, children, love, life, and self — are lost and forgotten. Unless they have been written. In Canaan, your book is your truth and your identity, and Nadia knows exactly who has written the truth. Because Nadia is the only person in Canaan who has never forgotten. But when Nadia begins to use her memory to push beyond the walls and solve the mysteries of Canaan, she discovers truths about herself and Gray, the handsome and enigmatic glassblower, that will change her world forever. As the anarchy of the next Forgetting approaches, Nadia and Gray must stop an unseen enemy that threatens both the city and their own existence — before the people can forget the truth. And before Gray can forget her.” This summary contains no surprises in the story (Thank you, Scholastic!), but simply states who the lead is and what she must accomplish. Telling potential readers that the clock is ticking for Nadia to find the truth is a good way to spur a reader to begin the tale. Good, simple set up. Overall grade: B

The characters: Seventeen-year-old Nadia is a strong heroine. When introduced, she’s returning from the other side of the wall, an offense that is punishable by the lash. Author Sharon Cameron has the girl descending from a dangerous height, constantly telling herself that she won’t be caught. She’s not, but she is seen by Gray, the local teenage lothario, who convinces her to take him over the wall on her next trip or he’ll reveal to the Council what she’s been doing. Nadia agrees and leaves the boy, wondering how she’ll be able to avoid taking him. Nadia always thinks first of her family’s well-being, her two sisters and her mother; that’s why she’s been scaling the wall, to bring them food since the city’s supplies are running short. She constantly feels pressure from each, especially since older sister Liliya believes her sister to be one of the Lost (those who are considered below others) and would do anything to have her out of the family after the next Forgetting and her mentally unstable mother. Not helping is that Nadia remembers before the last Forgetting and is beginning to realize that the truths that she, and all others in Canaan, write down in their books that they carry (so not to forget who they are after each Forgetting) do not contain the truth. Her knowledge is not complete; there are some things in her past that she cannot recall, but enough to know that Canaan has secrets. Whom she can trust is a constant issue, be they family or possible allies, like Gray. This supporting character starts very one dimensionally, but he grew tremendously, becoming downright heartbreaking in the book’s climax. The antagonists of the book are initially many, including all members of the Council, but one character does know the truth and that brings this individual against Nadia. This character has a good reason justifying what is being done, but this character’s final actions make this character an absolute villain. Excellent characters in this book communicate the importance of memory for one’s — and society’s — growth. Overall grade: A

The settings: The city of Canaan comes off as an idyllic medieval city enclosed by a gigantic white stone wall. There are large and small structures that are not out of the realm of possibility, with food grown on the roofs of houses (since citizens cannot leave the city), an enormous Archive which houses everyone’s books for after Forgetting reading, and businesses, like Gray’s glassblowing shop. Cameron describes this civilization perfectly; so much so, I feel as if I could create a map of this location. However, certain names used in the town are telltale signs that something is amiss about this environment. Even Nadia early on realizes that the look of the town is not right. On the other side of the wall is untouched land that is wonderfully picturesque, though it too houses a secret, and that location is what changes the novel. This location is also described well, with it described by Nadia, who’s a stranger to such sights, but a careful reader will be able to discern where she is and what she’s seeing. The settings of this novel are major plot points. Overall grade: A+

The action: This novel has action that is twofold. The first is the constant state of paranoia that Nadia is in for fear of being betrayed to the Council by family, friends, or neighbors. She feels as if she’s being watched, and the reader definitely feels the same as they journey forward with her. The second is the foe she must best as the clock counts down to the Forgetting. She cannot fight this character physically, as she has to convince the city that she speaks the truth. She does undergo some physical threats, but it comes down to a war of words in the end and it’s riveting reading. This action of this book never has a dry spell. Overall grade: A

The conclusion: Very fitting, though not necessarily happy for everyone. I was glad to see that the book didn’t have the climax go smoothly for Nadia, or her allies. There is no better ending for her than what occurs in the final chapter. Overall grade: A

The final line: An outstanding book that contains equal amounts of paranoia and thrills that will have readers running alongside the protagonist to solve the mystery of Canaan and the Forgetting. You must remember to read this book before it’s too late! Overall grade: A 

To find out more about the author go to her website at http://sharoncameronbooks.com/

To order this book on September 13 go to https://store.scholastic.com/

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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