Sometimes people who don’t understand the YA genre will tell you that YA is all about love triangles and Katniss Everdeen type heroines trying to save their dystopian world. And I love Katniss Everdeen as much as the next person, but I always get upset when that discourse starts picking up speed. Because YA is such a diverse genre, filled with so much more than what, perhaps, we’ve seen on TV and movies.
It’s filled with magic and laughter, love and healing. And that doesn’t look just one way.
Today, I want to invite you to discover a new book that is all of those things. I’m talking about The Forgotten Memories of Vera Glass by Anna Priemaza. And just in case you need more than just my words to be convinced, I come bearing more gifts.
First, the synopsis:
Vera has a nagging feeling that she’s forgetting something. Not her keys or her homework—something bigger. Or someone. When she discovers her best friend Riven is experiencing the same strange feeling, they set out on a mission to uncover what’s going on. Everyone in Vera’s world has a special ability—a little bit of magic that helps them through the day. Perhaps someone’s ability is interfering with their memory? Or is something altering their very reality? Vera and Riven intend to fix it and get back whatever or whomever they’ve lost. But how do you find the truth when you can’t even remember what you’re looking for in the first place? The Forgotten Memories of Vera Glass is a cleverly constructed, heartbreaking, and compelling contemporary YA novel with a slight fantasy twist about memory, love, grief, and the invisible bonds that tie us to each other. This high-concept YA novel is taut with tension and twists, and unlike anything out there.
And, something even better! An exclusive excerpt:
At lunch, at our usual table in the cafeteria, Riven pulls a small pile of red cardstock and a pair of scissors from her backpack. “Okay, team, get to work.”
“On what?” Bolu asks.
“Our costumes. I can’t believe I let you slackers put it off this long.”
She’s got a point. Halloween’s on Friday. I don’t think we’ve ever been this close to Halloween without having our costumes 100 percent ready to go before. But the bright red of the cardstock looks so much cheerier than I feel. Our whole costume idea is so cheery. Four cuddly Beanie Babies. Four of them. The number hits me in the gut. I eye Riven’s backpack, wondering if the notebook is in there. Perhaps I should ask her to draw a picture of the number four, too.
Pete reaches out and slides the cardstock and scissors toward himself. “What’s this for, again?”
For a moment, Riven just stares at him. Then she says, incredulously, “You’re voluntarily helping out? What’s the catch?”
I expect Pete to snark something back at her, but he just shrugs. “No catch. Just tell me what to do.”
“Cut them into big hearts. For the tags.”
He nods, then searches in his backpack and pulls out a pencil. He’s actually taking his job seriously.
Riven and I share a glance. We’ve never known Pete to take something seriously before.
“So what’s the plan for Friday night?” Bolu asks, and we leave Pete to his task and explain to Bolu our normal Halloween traditions: how we head to Riven’s house after school, get costumed up, have an early supper, then head out.
“Afterward, we usually watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, because that’s about the scariest Halloween movie that Vera can handle,” Riven says.
“Hey, it’s not my fault that scary movies give me nightmares,” I protest. “And besides, I could probably handle something scarier now!”
“Well, maybe it’s time we changed that part of the tradition,” Riven suggests.
“No! We can’t change the tradition!” Bolu protests, even though she’s never been part of our Halloween tradition before. I’m glad she speaks up, though, because with Riven suggesting a change and Pete busy with his task, apparently there’s no one else who will. It feels as if there should be someone else who would.
“How’s this look?” Pete slides a heart across the table—not the happy heart symbol we were expecting, but a bloody, oversize organ, with an aorta sticking out the top. Like he pulled his own heart out of his chest and magnified it onto the page.
“I—uh—” Riven says. “That’s not—”
I snatch it up. “This is perfect. Petey, you’re a genius.”
“Wait, what?” Riven asks.
“Did I screw it up?” Pete asks.
“I think they were supposed to be hearts,” Bolu says. “You know . . .” She outlines a heart symbol on the table with her finger.
“Oh, hell.” He looks genuinely crestfallen—though he’s looked that way a lot the last day or so.
“No, everyone, look; Pete had the right idea.” I hold the heart up near my neck, where the Beanie Baby tag would go. “We can go as Beanie Baby monsters. With our hearts pulled out of our chests.” The idea fits better in the jumble of my mind than the happy, cuddly stuffed animals do.
The look of protest falls off Riven’s face. “With our hearts pulled out of our chests,” she repeats.
“Beanie Baby monsters . . . is that a thing?” Bolu asks.
“It is now,” Riven says.
“We should do more to the onesies, though,” I suggest. “Put blood on them or something.”
“Oh, you finally got over your fear of blood and gore? Proud of you,” Pete says.
“I’m not afraid of blood and gore. I just can’t watch movies full of blood and gore!” I throw the blood-red heart back at Pete. It sort of flutters in the air, then floats down to the table.
Pete pulls it toward him. “But real-life gore is fine?”
“Real-life fake gore on fake costumes is fine,” I say, fake-scowling at him.
“Wouldn’t a fake costume not be a costume at all?” points out Bolu.
“Shut up. I hate you all,” I say, but I can’t help smiling. It feels good to be bantering after what’s felt like too much awkward silence since the rose happened yesterday.
“I can bloody the onesies up tonight,” Riven offers. All our costumes are already at Riven’s. She’s demanded it be that way since our second year of trick-or-treating together. Which is fair, since our first year, I forgot my tiara and our second year, I forgot my M&M gloves.
“Perfect,” I say.
“Perfect,” Bolu and Pete both echo at the same time.
Then we all get to work tracing Pete’s masterpiece onto more red cardstock. By the end of lunch period, we each have a heart pulled out of our chest. All four of us.
Since Riven has to work on our Halloween costumes and I have to pick up Gertie and Isaac from school, Riven and I go our separate ways after school. After supper, though, she texts me pictures of the costumes, which look delightfully gory. They all have gashes on the left side of the chest, dripping blood, plus other random cuts and bloodstains. Her own panda costume has a bloody handprint near the heart-gash.
Awesome work, I text her. I’m so impressed. I’ve never been great at art. If I had tried to do it, I’d probably end up staining them all entirely red or something. Which reminds me: Can you add the number four to your notepad?
Instead of answering by text, she calls me a moment later. “The number four?” she says instead of hello when I answer.
“Yeah. You know . . .” I trail off. I suddenly feel silly saying it aloud. Who feels punched in the gut by a number? But this isn’t just anyone I’d be saying it to; it’s Riven. Riven who’s been my best friend since fourth grade. Who I’ve never kept a secret from. Who I would trust with my life. Who I would trust with my sanity, which apparently I’m continuing to lose. “Yeah, four,” I continue. “As in four costumes. Four friends. Four of us. Me, you, Pete, and Bolu.”
For a moment, the line is quiet, and my stomach twists with fear that she won’t get it. That she’ll interrupt the silence with something like, “Aw, that’s so sweet,” and miss the point entirely.
But then she says, slowly, “So we’re making a book of things that feel weird. Is that it?”
“Yes!” I practically shout into the phone, so relieved that if she were here, I’d probably smother her in a hug. “Exactly!”
I hear a rustling of pages and wonder if she’s pulling out the notebook right now. “Do you think we’ve slipped into a parallel universe?” she asks.
Of course that’s the first place her brain would go. Riven loves parallel universes. Last time I saw a book that mentioned parallel universes in the description, I immediately bought it for Riven for her birthday.
“Wouldn’t we find things different, then, not just weird?” I point out, trying to be rational. It’s theoretically possible that parallel universes exist—like Mom says, so many more things are possible than we currently understand—but I’d think it would be more obvious if we slipped into one.
“I don’t know. Who knows what shifting from one universe to the next did to our brains? I’m writing it down.”
“Are we making a list, then, along with the pictures?”
“Obviously. Why, have you got something to add?”
I think of the Witches and the way Cecily looked at me in science. The way she walked past our house, staring up at it as if mumbling a spell under her breath. I don’t believe in witches or curses or spells or any of that garbage. “No,” I say. “No ideas at all.”
“Well, I’ve got more,” she says, and I can hear the faint scratch of her pencil as she writes them down. “Mind control. Psychoses. Artificial reality.”
“You think we’re in an artificial reality? Like this is all a computer simulation or something?” I try to keep the skepticism out of my voice but fail miserably.
“Look, anything’s possible.”
“But not everything’s probable,” I point out.
“Well, your face gets scrunched up all weird when you think about spaghetti,” Riven counters.
“I think we’re way past probable.”
I sigh. “Fine. Then add, ‘a message from God.’ ”
“A message from God? Really?” It’s her turn for her voice to be filled with skepticism.
“You just said, ‘anything’s possible.’ ”
“You’re right,” she concedes. “I did. I’ll add it.”
“And global warming,” I suggest.
“Ooh, yes, maybe the change in the atmosphere is messing with our brains in thus-far undetected ways.”
“That’s the first thing you’ve said so far that makes sense,” I say.
“For the record, I am now sticking my tongue out at you.”
“So am I,” I say, sticking my tongue out even though she can’t see it to confirm.
“You’re sticking your tongue out at yourself?”
“Oh, shush, you dork,” I say, then add, “Send me a picture of the list so far. I’ve got to go so I can finish my math homework.”
“I will. Tell me if you’ve got more ideas to add to the list.”
By the time I’m back in my room, my phone is blinking with a notification. It’s the pictures from Riven. The first is of our list.
Message from God
Message from the universe
I shake my head at that last one. Her refusal to believe in God would be much more convincing if she didn’t refer so often to a higher power. Still, it makes me feel better, like this is all some silly game we’re playing.
I flip to the next picture, and my stomach twists even tighter. Instead of just writing the number four, she’s drawn the four of us. Me and Riven on the left, Pete and Bolu on the right. In the middle is a gap. A space. A hole. It’s probably not intentional, and it probably means nothing, but I find my finger drawn to it. I tap the spot where nothing is.
And suddenly, I’m crying.
Tears stream down my face, inexplicably, uncontrollably.
I switch back to the picture of the pasta, and my tears come faster.
I don’t know why I’m crying.
But I do know: This is anything but a game.
But that’s not all! We also have one copy of the book to give away. All you have to do is enter below (US/Canada only):a Rafflecopter giveaway