This is another one of those quasi-sci-fi books aimed at teen girls in the tradition Twilight, Hunger Games and Numbers. While I kind of enjoyed Forgotten, it had some major issues that bothered me the whole way through.
I couldn’t quite get over the absolute impossibility of the premise in Forgotten – especially because the whys and hows were in no way explained. London is a young woman whose memory works forward rather than backwards. She can only remember the future, not her past. As a result, she leaves herself notes every night so she can catch up on what is happening in her life. While she can remember the next day, somewhere around 4am her memory resets, and she forgets it by morning.
Ok, interesting enough. But – what the hell?? Memory doesn’t work like that – it’s just impossible. And if you’re going to make me believe something impossible, I need a little bit more explanation for it all. I mean, we’ve got some back story, but only vague references to how it started. Really – she’s seeing the future – which I might be able to believe… but it’s a big stretch to call it memory and pretend it’s registered in her brain like normal memories are. As if it’s something she’s already experienced. Nifty idea, but please take some more effort to account for it. And how is it that just her, her mom, and her best friend know about it? Why haven’t they taken her to tons of specialists? Why isn’t the government (or some other nefarious body) looking for her? The best that could be said is that some of these things have happened, but she’s forgotten and hasn’t bothered reminding herself.
(A side note: in the book she apparently has beautiful auburn/red hair, but on the cover it’s just light brown? Why not check these things for continuity, publicity department?)
Another problem with the premise: she writes herself these notes every night, then every morning she has to catch herself up. So presumably she’s reading hours of notes every day (sometimes she mentions this)… surely it’s increasing all the time and she has more and more and more to read. How is it even possible to read through all the stuff she needs on a daily basis to function? And why is it so important that her outfits are listed? Can’t she go with what’s clean and what isn’t? And how can she possibly ever pass a course, or a test? By the time of the final review, she’d have no memory of the course at all. But then, maybe she leaves a note as to what the questions will be… Oh, and one other thing: when reading these notes I was honestly very confused about whether she was talking about things that will happen to her that day (I think the wardrobe comments fall into this category) and what had happened the previous day.
What I did like was the thought experiment that is the concept – given adequate explanation, it could be really thought-provoking (and was a bit). If you think about it, it’s a very sad life: as she gets older she has less and less to “remember”. Her past disappears, and all she has left is a shrinking future. By the time she’s old, she’ll be in a confusing present, without any memories to comfort her or guide her in the world. That is endlessly thought-provoking, though the author doesn’t really delve into this at all. In a way, I would have liked a more traditional sci-fi novel with this premise – it could have covered much more about her life and how it all happened, and how she manages to live it. (or how a whole group of such people manage… makes you miss Philip K. Dick, even though I find a lot of his writing painful to read) As it was, I found it had a lot of the typical teen romance stuff re-hashed. But, then, many readers are going to love that.
In terms of the re-hash: it’s got the usual parent stuff. The usual friend stuff. The usual school stuff. A very tall handsome boy named Luke who likes her. Here the relationship reminded me of Twilight. He’s the only person in London’s future that she can’t remember – so much so, that for a while she thinks he isn’t in her future (see Edward not being able to read Bella’s mind). Their relationship is so immediately deep and close that it also reminds me of the vampire stuff. Though of course it’s got a little of Fifty First Dates in it as well. I also think it is very similar to Numbers by Rachel Ward, about a girl with a strange and unsettling ability. However, London is not a delinquent, and Luke is not nearly so hygiene challenged as Spider from that novel. But it might be the closest match, genre-wise.
While well written and with some decent (though not very original) characters, Forgotten‘s main draw is it’s interesting premise. If the gaps in explaining her memory issues don’t bother you, you’ll probably love this book. If they do, I recommend finding some more serious sci-fi – like Philip K. Dick, Vonnegut, LeGuin, or maybe Asimov (if you like androids like I do).