Author: Jessica Brody
Genre: YA contemporary, paranormal, wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff, biopunk
Publication Date: March 5, 2013 (Macmillan – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: The only thing worse than forgetting her past… is remembering it.
When Freedom Airlines flight 121 went down over the Pacific Ocean, no one ever expected to find survivors. Which is why the sixteen-year-old girl discovered floating among the wreckage—alive—is making headlines across the globe.
Even more strange is that her body is miraculously unharmed and she has no memories of boarding the plane. She has no memories of her life before the crash. She has no memories period. No one knows how she survived. No one knows why she wasn’t on the passenger manifest. And no one can explain why her DNA and fingerprints can’t be found in a single database in the world.
Crippled by a world she doesn’t know, plagued by abilities she doesn’t understand, and haunted by a looming threat she can’t remember, Seraphina struggles to piece together her forgotten past and discover who she really is. But with every clue only comes more questions. And she’s running out of time to answer them.
Her only hope is a strangely alluring boy who claims to know her from before the crash. Who claims they were in love. But can she really trust him? And will he be able to protect her from the people who have been making her forget?
☆: 4/5 stars – a promising new biopunk series from Brody!
Review: I certainly didn’t expect something like this from an author that, up until now, seemed to specialize in YA contemporary-only novels. I’m impressed. “Unremembered” is a great biopunk tale that will definitely keep you guessing and on your toes, and though it’s pretty short, it will definitely leave you wanting that second book as soon as you finish this first one. I love that biopunk is finally getting its foothold in YA lit, and “Unremembered” is a great one to add to that new canon.
First, I definitely have to give some extra brownie points to Brody for her homage to Joss Whedon’s “Dollhouse” (whether she intentionally did that or not, it’s in this book). I won’t spoil how that ties into Seraphina’s journey and trials, but it’s a pretty big homage, and I’m happy it’s in there.
Now to the important stuff. Worldbuilding: because Seraphina is having so many issues with amnesia, there’s a lot of internal worldbuilding that happens because of it. How is it internal? She’s processing a lot of things, and she’s actively creating a new bank of memories, so there’s a lot of reflective moments, and a constant inner narrative. When those old memories start to surface, we get an even better idea of not just how Seraphina’s inner world was before the accident, but we also see the world she lived in externally, as well. While the internal worldbuilding is immediate and very thorough, I did feel that the external worldbuilding did lag a little bit. For a good part of the book, we don’t see much other than the Scotts’ house and the immediate area around it, and there’s not much to see there. I would have liked a little more sensory imagery in that area, if just to build up the external world while Seraphina’s still getting back on her feet. However, the rest of the book (once things really kick off and get going) has non-stop action, and thus, a lot of really great external worldbuilding to see where Seraphina’s from, and how it affects her. The final moments of the book have the richest parts of both worlds so far, and I really loved that.
The characters: another area I felt needed work when it came to other people aside from our main protagonist, Zen, and our main antagonists. The rest felt a little too 2D for me, and though they’re more minor characters, one can still build them up just enough to make them more than props. Here, these extra characters felt a lot like props to help propel Seraphina through her journey (and race) to find her memories. So on that point, I was a bit disappointed, and hopefully with book 2 on the way, there will be some improvement. However, Seraphina is a wonderfully complex character (even if she is still a bit of a blank canvas through a lot of the book), and Zen, though needing a bit more fleshing out himself, is a great love interest for her. The antagonists were pretty awesome too, and I can’t help but wonder if that was a bit of a social commentary on big pharma/bio business that’s going on today.
The rest: While I do feel there was some telling in a few areas, there was a lot of showing, and when Brody puts her mind to it, she can really show a great scenescape within her prose. I loved the last 2/3rds of the book because the sensory imagery was so compelling, and almost visceral when it came to Seraphina literally on the run. The final moments (which I won’t spoil) really had me breathless. And while things end on a bit of a cliffhanger, it also can work as a standalone – provided, it’s really open ended if it were a standalone and not the first book in a new series – which is always something good when it comes to starting a new series. The arcs and sub-arcs were really well-woven into each other, and I found myself excited to see what would happen next. I love it when authors can keep my on my toes, and while not all of the big reveals were a major surprise, the ones that were were awesome.
Final verdict? I had a ton of fun with this book, and I definitely can’t wait for the next one. “Unremembered” is out March 5, 2013 from Macmillan Children’s in North America, so definitely be sure to check it out then!