Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Reminder

The Reminder

Rune Michaels
For ages 12 to 14
Simon and Schuster, 2008   ISBN: 978-1442402539

One night Daze wakes up from a recurring nightmare to hear the sound of her mother’s voice. Which is impossible because her mother died two years ago. For a while Daze wonders if her mother’s ghost is in residence, but when she goes to investigate she finds out that her father is watching a home “Best of Mom” movie that he put together.

The second time she hears her mother’s voice Daze is in her father’s office at the university. The sound appears to be coming from her father’s workshop, a space that she is not allowed to enter without permission. Compelled by what she heard, and somehow pulled by a feeling of hope, Daze goes into the workshop. She can no longer hear the voice and wants to see if she can find the source, but before she can check anything out her father arrives. He tells Daze that she must have heard the end of a home movie.

After this very unsettling occurrence, Daze stops dropping in to her father’s office quite as often and tries to live her life as if she hadn’t heard her mother’s voice in her father’s workroom. The problem is that try as she might things are not “normal.” Daze cannot forget that none of the movie clips that they have at home sound like the one she heard in her father’s office that day.

One day a pipe at school bursts and the kids are released early. Instead of going home, Daze decides to drop in on her father as a surprise. When she arrives at his office she can hear him talking to someone in his workshop and then, after a moment or two she realizes that he is talking to Mom about her and her little brother. Mom. How is that even possible?

When Daze’s father comes into his office to answer a phone call, Daze hides until he is gone. Then she retrieves his extra workshop key from his desk, goes into the workshop and starts looking around. Between the two computers he uses there is something covered by a towel and when she whips this off she reveals her mother’s head. To say that Daze is horrified is an understatement. When the shaky teen investigates further she discovers that the head is fake; it is actually a “heap of wires and electronics” that is covered with a blond wig and a mask that strongly resembles her mother’s face.

Daze wakes the head up and it talks to her in Mom’s voice, which is incredibly creepy and unsettling. Daze has to remind herself that the android head her father has built is just a machine, one that learns “by asking questions and receiving answers.” Even though she knows that the thing is not alive and never will be, Daze tells the android that her mother had two children. In the days that follow she tells the machine, which she calls Mom, more things, eager to hear that familiar voice even though it is computer generated.

Thus Daze enters a very strange period in her life. She does her best to seem normal while she snatches moments with Mom. She keeps her activities secret from everyone, afraid that if anyone knew what she was doing they would interfere and take her mother away from her a second time. That cannot be allowed to happen. Not again.

Told from Daze’s point of view, this powerful story explores a teenage girl’s journey a few years after the death of her mother. Readers will sense the acute loss, anger, and loneliness that she experiences, but it is only when everything collapses around her that we truly appreciate why she behaves the way she does and why the android her father built becomes a lifeline for her.