Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Memento Nora

Memento Nora

Angie Smibert
Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
Marshal Cavendish, 2011   ISBN: 978-0761458296

Fifteen-year-old Nora James has had a charmed life until now. She hangs out with the kids in her school who are preppy, ambitious, and college bound. They belong to families who are well off and who live in large and safe houses. Unlike so many other people, Nora has never witnessed violence, and then one day she and her mother go shopping and a bookstore nearby is blown up. The body of a man lands on the sidewalk in front of Nora. All her life Nora has heard about the bombings, which everyone believes are caused by terrorists, but this is the first time she has experienced a bombing herself.

   In Nora’s world people who have money have a simple way of dealing with bad memories that are triggered by sad or traumatic events. They go to a TFC – a Therapeutic Forgetting Clinic. At the clinic the patient describes the memory that is troubling them, then they take a pill and the memory is gone.

   Nora’s parents decide that Nora needs to go to a TFC to rid herself of her memories of the bombing. Nora’s mother takes her, and as they sit in the waiting room Nora sees that a boy from her school is also waiting for treatment. He is wearing a cast on one of his arms and the word Memento is written on it. Wordlessly he shows Nora the word. Nora does not really understand what he is trying to tell her and she ignores him. Later, after his treatment, the boy sticks his tongue out at her and she sees that he has not swallowed the pill he was given. Then he spits out the pill and throws it away, and Nora is the only person who sees him doing this. Nora cannot help being impressed by this boy who is “something else” and who chooses to be “all there.”

   When it is her turn to be seen by the doctor, Nora’s mother shows Nora how the process works by going first. To Nora’s horror her mother describes how her husband, Nora’s father, “called her a stupid cow and slammed her face into a door frame.” He was angry because he blamed Nora’s mother for exposing his princess to the horrors of real life. Nora’s mother then takes her pill and the memory of her abuse is gone. When it is her turn, Nora describes the bombing and she puts the pill she is given in her mouth, but she does not swallow it. She spits the pill out because she chooses to remember.

   At school Nora cannot help feeling drawn to the boy she saw at the TFC. His name is Micah and he does not belong to the ‘it’ group, and yet there is something about him that Nora likes. They meet in the library and Micah shows Nora a comic strip that he is drawing. The artwork tells the story of how Micah got his arm broken when he was riding his skateboard and was hit by a black van. Nora tells Micah about the bombing and about the dead body that she saw.

   When Nora and Micah meet again, Micah shows Nora a comic strip that he created that tells her bombing story. Micah explains that creating the strips helps him deal with the memories better, that the nightmares aren’t as bad when he makes a comic strip showing his experiences. He wonders if other kids would also like to have their stories told in this way. Nora then she tells him why she did not swallow the pill. She tells him about her mother, who goes to the TFC once a week to forget the emotional and physical abuse that she suffers at the hands of her husband. Then the two of them work together to tell Nora’s real story in words and pictures.

   Nora and Micah decide that they will print up their comic strips, which they are going to call Memento. The problem is that the government is able to keep track of everything. Every printer, copier, and computer is monitored. Since Nora and Micah don’t want anyone to know who produces Memento – people have been arrested and detained indefinitely for doing less – they need to somehow produce and distribute the comic anonymously. This is where Micah’s friend Winter comes in. Winter is a master when it comes to making things. With her help the friends are able to print up the comic using stencils, a kind of press, paper, and tattoo ink. Regular ink has nanomarkers in it. Then Nora and Micah take the copies of Memento to school and leave piles of them in the bathroom stalls, the one place where there are no cameras. The comic soon goes viral and no one knows who made it. Micah and Nora are thrilled with the reception the comic gets. They never imagine that in spite of their precautions, it could get them into a lot of trouble.

   In this often chilling story, we hear from Nora, Micah, and Winter in alternating chapters. We watch as Nora and Micah start to figure out what is really going on around them, and see how the realization rocks both their worlds. With its strong characters and a fascinating plot, this book will appeal to both teens and adults.