Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Memory Prisoner (book) by Thomas Bloor

When Maddie was two years old, something terrible happened that she can't remember, even though she can remember everything else she's ever heard or seen. Whatever it was that happened, Maddie's grandfather, Silas Lemon, disappeared, the library, which had been a lending library open to the public, shut its doors to almost everyone, and Maddie became afraid to leave the house. Thirteen years later, Maddie has not left the house once. Instead, she sits by her window and watches the outside world, learning about the goings on in the rest of the town from her younger brother Keith, whose memory is as amazing as her own.

Maddie and Keith's strange existence is disturbed by the news that Keith must now work at the Tower Library. The library is a mysterious and lifeless place that seems to have control over all of the town's information, from police reports to medical records, and the librarians are hiding some kind of secret in a restricted area of the library. Maddie becomes obsessed with investigating the Tower Library, encouraging the reluctant Keith to see as much of the library as he can and report everything he sees to her. Eventually, Maddie is forced to go outside in order to protect Keith, and she suddenly feels free and able to visit the library on her own. While there, she discovers what happened to her grandfather, learns about the terrible memory she suppressed, and frees the town from the corruption and control of the Tower Library.

This book was a bit of a letdown. Maddie's situation was so odd that I was expecting the ending of the book to be just as strange, but then it turned out to be a fairly mundane (if extremely pervasive) case of blackmail. No one knows what happened to Maddie's grandfather, Maddie hasn't left the house in 13 years, the Tower Library just screams "dark and foreboding," Maddie's mother is afraid of cupboards and drawers, and the readers are given blackmail and corruption as the root explanation of everything? I'd kind of expected that the librarians would turn out to be dangerous supernatural soul-suckers or some other creepy fantasy explanation.

Even if the ending didn't really live up the mood of the story, Bloor did a great job up to that point. I loved the creepy strangeness of it all, and the thought of villainous librarians always makes me laugh a bit.

Read-alikes:
  • Alcatraz Smedry Versus the Evil Librarians (book) by Brandon Sanderson - Alcatraz has always had a talent from breaking things - his mere presence can cause kitchens to go up in flames and doorknobs to break off. His world is turned upside down when he is given a bag of sand on his 13th birthday and it is promptly stolen by the evil Librarians bent on taking over the world. Alcatraz's grandfather, who special ability is arriving late for things (more useful than you might think), tries to teach Alcatraz how to use his talent so that they can infiltrate the library and get the bag of sand back. Those who'd like another young adult story involving evil librarians and the people who try to stand against them might like this book.
  • Holes (book) by Louis Sachar - Stanley Yelnats isn't a bad boy, but he is an unlucky one, and a misunderstanding lands him at Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention facility. The boys at Camp Green Lake are made to dig holes in the hot sun, day after day. Supposedly this will reform them, but it gradually becomes clear that the camp's frightening warden is actually having them look for something for her. Those who'd like another story with mystery, an odd and somewhat creepy feel, and villainous adults holding people prisoner for their own reasons might like this book.
  • A Wrinkle in Time (book) by Madeleine L'Engle - The book begins with the arrival of a disturbing stranger. Meg Murry, her brother Charles Wallace, and Calvin O'Keefe (one of the most popular boys in high school) travel through space and time in an attempt to find Meg and Charles's father, who disappeared while doing secret work for the government on the tesseract (tesseract = a wrinkle in time) problem. Those who'd like another young adult story starring intelligent young main characters who are on a fantastic adventure might like this book. Although The Memory Prisoner only felt like it was going to be a book with fantasy/magical elements, this book actually does have those elements.
  • Coraline (book) by Neil Gaiman - I'm not sure if I've actually managed to link to an edition of the book, or if what I've linked to is only a retelling of the story in a new format, so beware - I was a little surprised that the edition I read is no longer available. Anyway, in this strange and creepy story, Coraline and her family have recently moved into a new home. While exploring her home on her own, Coraline ends up stumbling into a version of the world much like her own, only freakier. Her other mother and other father (her mother and father in this alternate world) want Coraline to stay and be their little girl. Coraline becomes trapped in this other world and must figure out how to free her real parents and escape. Those who'd like another short young adult story with a creepy tone, a strange contemporary setting, and similar writing might enjoy this book.

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