Summary: The Memory Keeper
Lulu Carter loves her grandma. When her mother became depressed after the death of her little sister and her father’s number one focus was caring for her mother, only Lulu’s grandma looked after her. Even more, Lulu’s grandma, Sue is the only one who knows about Lulu’s HSAM (Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory). This means Lulu remembers her life in impressive detail. For example, she remembers exact dates, days, and what she did or wore on those days. She can also easily playback conversations from random past days, extracting useful information as needed.
Although she also loves her best friend Olivia, Lulu is scared that Olivia will think her weird for having a brain that rarely forgets. But when her grandmother starts forgetting things, getting confused, regressing to a strange (Russian?) accent mid-conversation, Lulu is worried that the only person who sees her could be disappearing forever. She’s convinced that her grandma’s memory losses are due to a traumatic past event. With the help of Olivia and a new friend, Max whose dad gives them horse-riding lessons, Lulu works to get to the bottom of the mystery.
This book is very STEM-focused. Each chapter begins with a brief paragraph or two about a part of the nervous system it’s titled after. The writer then connects the anatomy and function with the plot — it’s really cool! So there are chapters titled after dendrites, synapses, saltatory conduction, and more science-y words. As a doctor, the science refresh was a pleasant surprise.
I also enjoyed learning more about HSAM through Lulu’s experience. Apparently, there are less than 100 people identified as having this kind of memory in the US. The book’s title and Lulu’s use of her memory in behalf of her grandmother is very sweet and clever.
The friendships in this novel are also rock-solid and there’s a real emphasis on friends being there for each other. Lulu’s grandma has Russian ties, and having lived in Ukraine for three years (and knowing and speaking Russian), I loved seeing the sprinkle of Russian words. I have to say, the author does a fine job of objectively representing Russians (who are often negatively represented).
The mystery in The Memory Keeper is captivating and I found myself flipping the pages faster and faster as the plot came to a climax. But even more importantly, the book highlights the impact of a depressed parent, both secondary to grief and as postpartum depression.
It took a while to get into Lulu’s voice. But that’s more a personal nit-picky thing than the book’s fault, I think, since I eventually got used to it.
Overall: The Memory Keeper
The Memory Keeper is an engaging middle-grade debut from Jennifer Camiccia. This novel features a character with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, a grandparent dealing with the onset of Alzheimer’s, and a parent recovering from depression. Yet, it manages not to be a downer. With an impressively woven mystery and trio of adventurous, smart kids, this book is a thrilling read.
I’d highly recommend this novel to anyone who loves science, middle-grade mysteries, and stories about strong bonds between grandparents and their grandchildren. It’s perfect for fans of Tae Keller’s The Science of Breakable Things and Merci Suarez Changes Gears.
Buy This Book
More Middle-Grade Reviews
- The Line Tender by Kate Allen
- Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga
- The Friendship Lie by Rebecca Donnelly
Have you read this book or any middle-grade STEM books? Which are your favorite STEM books or books about grandparents? I’d love to know! Look out for my interview with author Jennifer Camiccia on Monday!