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Book By Book
When I started listening to The Forgetting, a teen/YA novel by Sharon Cameron recently, it seemed at first very similar to the middle-grade audio I had just finished, The Scourge by Jennifer Nielsen: a dystopian story set in an unfamiliar world. I was a bit disappointed because I prefer to mix things up a bit more and read/listen to different kinds of books. Halfway through The Forgetting, though, a plot twist changed the story entirely for me, and I became much more interested in it. I ended up enjoying it very much.
Nadia lives in the city of Canaan, a bucolic town where each person has a specific job to do in a no-tech world. Citizens don’t leave the stone walls surrounding their town, and they live simple lives, defined by their jobs. Nadia’s full name is Nadia the Dyer’s Daughter because her mother works in the dye works in town. Nadia, her mother, and her two sisters live in a small house in town. Nadia’s family members – and most other townspeople – are content with their lives and their world, but Nadia has a desire to know more and to see more. She often climbs over the walls in secret during the daily resting time.
There’s one thing that makes Canaan completely unique. Every twelve years, all of its citizens experience a day called the Forgetting, when everyone – from young children to the oldest people – forget everything, including their own history and their loved ones. The only memories retained are muscle memory, of physical skills gained through years of experience, which is why so much emphasis is put on learning and gaining those singular skills for each person. For the rest, each person keeps a book on their person, a precious place to record everything important in their lives – shelved in the Archives when full – so that they will have a way of remembering their families, friends, and lives after the Forgetting. However, Nadia is the exception; she alone, of all her fellow citizens, remembers everything. She went through her first Forgetting at age six, and her second one is quickly approaching.
In the first pages of the book, as Nadia is sneaking back into town after another covert trip over the wall, she discovers another person in town who is interested in the wider world. Gray, the glassblower’s son, catches Nadia sneaking back in and persuades her to take him along the next time. Feeling trapped by his discovery of her, Nadia reluctantly agrees, and an uneasy alliance is formed between the two. It’s uneasy in part because Nadia remembers things about Gray’s background that he himself doesn’t know.
There are a lot of interesting twists and surprises in this unique novel, so I won’t describe any more details of the plot. Nadia and Gray go exploring and make some new discoveries about their world and their town. Meanwhile, inside town, Nadia keeps getting in trouble (as is her habit) and worries that her secrets will be discovered. Because she remembers things that no one else in town can remember, she also begins to discover secrets about the town itself.
This book really grew on me over time as I listened to it, and as I mentioned, a plot twist partway through made it all the more compelling to me. It just got better and better. It’s an adventure, with a lot of action (especially toward the end), a dystopian story describing a world different than ours, and there is plenty of suspense, as Nadia gradually unravels the secrets of her world. I enjoyed this unique story with surprising and suspenseful plot twists. And now I see there will be a sequel, The Knowing, so I look forward to reading that as well!
(Note: don’t look up The Knowing before you have read The Forgetting because the description of the second book gives away secrets from the first book).
Scholastic Press/Scholastic Audio
(audio sample at the link below)