by Eileen Cook
People need to ball up. Life isn't all sunshine and unicorns. Now they're selling it to people our age? What, because not getting into the college of our choice is crushing? No date for prom causing premature PTSD? It's not trauma; it's real life. Life is hard sometimes. It doesn't mean you don't face it. (pg. 12)That's best friend Win's assessment of the Memtex treatment that teen Harper Bryne's father's company NeuroTech is now offering, with FDA approval, for the "softening" of painful memories that get in the way of living. But when Harper's beloved horse, Harry, dies unexpectedly of colic, she is devastated and weeks later still unable to sleep or eat. Though her parents refuse to allow her to receive treatment, Harper easily convinces her boyfriend, Josh, an part-time intern at NeuroTech–and a protegé of her father's– to sneak her in. In recovery, Harper is thrilled to know she can still visualize Harry but without the devastating sadness and guilt, feeling like herself again.
That is, until she blacks out over memories of a woman falling and the smell of burning meat, and begins dreams of this woman. Josh is convinced they are just false memories (he is so pro-NeuroTech). But, having witnessed her blackout, Neil O’Malley, a college student involved in protests objecting to Memtex’s use, approaches her about the possible side effects of the treatment that he is convinced had a role in his older brother’s suicide.
Now Harper is delving into her past, doing some sleuthing around anomalous information about her horse and her mother, and getting Neil to help her with this research, while her relationship with Josh is put on hold and her friendship with Win takes a tailspin. And then there’s her dad whom she’d always trusted to do everything and anything for her and now whom she is convinced is harbouring secrets and acting only in the best interests of his company.
Remember is a romance with a cautionary spin on the hazards of expecting lives filled only with lightness and good memories, devoid of the painful ones that help sculpt us into the persons we are. Win is always remarking about Harper’s Mary Poppins’ positive attitude and is disappointed, almost angry, when Harper begins to be less so. This is surprising considering she acknowledges that life isn’t all “sunshine and unicorns” (pg. 12). But, Win is not atypical, recognizing that sometimes life sucks while still preferring effusive busyness and happy demeanours at all costs. Not surprising a lot of work related to PTSD and depression is done quietly and discretely on the side.
Eileen Cook writes captivating realistic fiction with a hint of romance so well, ensuring some sweetness is always enmeshed in the conflict of keeping secrets and telling of lies. Unraveling Isobel (SimonPulse, 2012) and The Almost Truth (SimonPulse, 2012) are two more examples of her gripping YA that I’ve been pleased to review here on CanLit for LittleCanadians. I know my young readers are as enthusiastic by Eileen Cook’s writing as I am, gripped by complex plotlines beyond their own lives and by romantic, friend and family relationships that reassure them that they are normal. And Remember is one more YACanLit to add to that collection, albeit with a nuance of science fiction that makes us remember that the speculative may not always been that fantastic after all.