Whether you’re a fan or not, it’s impossible not to see the unfortunate impact that Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series has had on the landscape of teen literature. In any medium, publishers and studios will always try to replicate or capitalise on the latest phenomenon. As a result, almost every upcoming novel aimed at the teen market is the third, fifth or eleventeenth book in a series centring on the epic, forbidden love between a small-town girl and a broody vampire/werewolf/mummy/Oompa-Loompa. In a genre completely flooded with bland, derivative tales of gothic romance and warring supernatural clans, Cat Patrick’s Forgotten is the kind of book that young adult fiction desperately needs more of: An enticingly unique and instantly compelling novel with a killer concept.
London Lane might seem like your average high-school girl – good grades, a loyal, if stubborn best friend and a supportive, but overprotective mother – but what sets her apart isn’t on the surface. Every night at 4:33 a.m., London’s memory resets itself. Her entire past is a blank, but she can see her future like memories; she’ll remember things that’ll happen tomorrow, but has no clue what happened yesterday. Patching together a past for herself by keeping a system of daily notes and relying on reminders from her mother and best friend Jamie, London attempts to live a normal life. Trying to start a relationship with the sweet, charming new boy at school proves difficult in itself when she’ll forget him every night, but when London uncovers a terrifying memory of her future, she’ll be forced to unravel her past if she’ll have any hope of changing what’s to come.
Patrick uses the Memento-esque concept to great effect both as a mystery device and to fuel the human drama of a girl stuck with such a unique condition, exploring the inherent minor perks and major problems for a teenage girl with total memory loss. After all, the daily life of a teenage girl seems like a life and death drama already, and a particularly bad day at high school can feel like a minor tragedy for the hormonal teenagers living it. London has the benefit of being able to see the future and pick and chose what parts of the past she wakes up to. If she doesn’t want to remember a painful argument or embarrassing mishap, she simply doesn’t leave a note to tell herself about it and it’s gone forever.
But it’s a double-edged sword, too: Relying on a parent or friend to remind her of the past is great in theory, but what if she isn’t being told everything? And where should she draw the line with her knowledge of the future; is it okay to interfere with someone’s happiness in the present if it might spare them heartache later? London’s struggle to live a normal life and the murky moral dilemmas that pop up while she’s exploring her abilities helps shape her into an interesting, immediately likeable and realistically flawed, believable protagonist. Her story becomes even more gripping as Patrick unfolds a tapestry of captivating mystery that’ll hook in readers in until the surprising (if hurried) finale. Questions unravel at a steady pace and Forgotten becomes even more riveting as the answers become clearer. What caused London’s condition? What’s her mother hiding from her? Why can’t she see her boyfriend in her memory of the future like she can everything else? And who is at the centre of the looming funeral she keeps seeing glimpses of?
Naturally, since it’s a Young Adult novel, there’s the obligatory romance, but Forgotten’s is a refreshingly sweet and simple one at heart, and swoon-inducing new kid Luke Henry is sure to have teenage girls wishing they could steal him off the page and keep him for themselves. London’s romance is made instantly problematic for her since she’s doomed to forget Luke every night, will never recall the events of their first date and only gets to remember their relationship vicariously through her collection of notes. Even so, she does get the benefit of being able to rediscover his improbable good looks and fall for him all over again with every new day. He’s the archetypal Prince Charming, only with a quirky fondness for painting ears, but while he’s a little too lightly fleshed out in comparison to the other well-developed characters, it’s a welcome change to find a sweet, well-adjusted nice guy as the romantic interest in a young adult novel, as opposed to yet another terminally broody, melodramatic bad boy.
I started reading Forgotten in bed expecting to skim through a chapter before falling asleep. Four hours later, it was 5am and I was on the last few pages. It’s a gripping, unputdownable read, and Cat Patrick dishes out the perfect balance of intrigue, drama and romance with a breezy, delicate prose. Naturally, if you vomit uncontrollably at the thought of teen romance novels, then it probably won’t be for you, but if you’re jonesing for a unique, compelling and memorable change from the mountain of Twilight knock-offs, then Forgotten is a perfect fit.
Cat Patrick’s ‘Forgotten’ is released simultaneously in the UK, USA and Australia on 6th June 2011.
Click here to order the book from Amazon.co.uk