Top 5 YA Novels About Memory | Tracy Darnton

truthI’d love to welcome Tracy Darnton to Pretty Books today as part of The Truth About Lies blog tour!

In The Truth About Lies Jess has an amazing autobiographical memory. She remembers everything. Memory conditions are used to great effect in some of my favourite thrillers in film and fiction. We join the characters in slowly discovering what has happened in the mysterious past, working out who they can trust. We can wonder how we could function if we remembered nothing – or remembered everything – and if we would remove troublesome memories if we could. Black Mirror and Netflix find plenty to develop on the memory theme but these are my top picks for YA books dealing with memory:

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We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Transport yourself to a languid summer on an East Coast USA island with a wealthy family. Cadence has selective amnesia after a head injury but returns to the island to be reunited with the other liars of the title to piece together what happened to her. This is one I had to re-read for all the clever little clues I’d missed.

How Not To Disappear by Clare Furniss

I loved the main character Hattie. Dealing with her own considerable problems she winds up on a road-trip with her great-aunt Gloria who’s in the early stages of dementia. I wanted to include a book with dementia, and there’s so much humour, poignancy and fantastic family dynamics in this one as the secrets of Gloria’s past are revealed.

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

Another amnesia plot but this time the main character, Flora, has anterograde amnesia meaning she only remembers for a few hours. She writes herself notes to try to keep a hold on her life and knowledge. But is all as it seems with her condition? And as she heads off in pursuit of the one memory that sticks, I was totally immersed in the wilds of Svalbard.

The Memory Book by Lara Avery

Back to the US again for this one. Sam has a particularly nasty and terminal disease which includes progressive memory loss and dementia-like symptoms. She records her life in her ‘memory book’ to inform her future, compromised self. This interweaves a touching romance too and I admired how the writing reflected her deteriorating condition. However much I told myself I wasn’t going to cry, I did.

Unboxed by Non Pratt

OK so this one doesn’t have so much on memory themes but this super-readable short novel revolves around the memory box put together by a group when they were thirteen with their friend who died. It beautifully tackles identity, grief and friendship.

Tracy Darnton’s The Truth About Lies will be published by Stripes on July 12th. Follow Tracy on Twitter @TracyDarnton.

The Truth About Lies blog tour

Mini Book Reviews / Skylarks, The Astonishing Colour of After & From Twinkle, With Love

Skylarks by Karen Gregory

Joni is constantly worried about money. Her dad is unable to work due to disability, her family’s about to be evicted, and she might have to give up her job volunteering at the school library. Joni’s life goes in an unexpected direction when she meets Annabel, a fellow volunteer. Skylarks is about these two girls – one working class and poor, and one posh and rich – and their new relationship.

Skylarks sees Joni battling between doing what she feels right and what her family think she should do. Her entire family are hugely present throughout the story and in Joni’s life (much to her distress!), which I love because it’s not something we often see in YA, which is often full of deceased and absent parents.

Annabel and Joni are both adorable, and the relationship storyline also doesn’t go in the direction you might expect. I never felt like I was reading about characters, but real people. There was a lot of push and pull between the characters. Both girls have their faults, and it was lovely watching them work each other out as well as simply get to know each other. Skylarks also shouts about all the great things that teenagers experience and fight for: same-sex relationships, tolerance and open-mindedness, volunteering and political activism.

Skylarks isn’t a coming out story, but a beautiful tale of coming together.

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The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X.R. Pan

“My mother is a bird. This isn’t like some William Faulkner stream-of-consciousness metaphorical crap. My mother. Is literally. A bird.”

After her mother commits suicide, Leigh travels to Taiwan with her father. Before they leave, she meets a curious bird – and is convinced it is her mother.

Leigh is such a fantastic character. She’s passionate about art and although she draws in black and white, colour is hugely important to her. Like a non-medical synesthesia, Leigh thinks and feels in colour. Leigh’s passion for art is tied to her friendship/romance with Axel. They kissed before Leigh left and now she can’t face talking to or seeing him again. I loved discovering more about their relationship.

The Astonishing Colour of After is mostly set in Taiwan. Leigh discovers more about her family, their culture, and learns Taiwanese. This is a story where magical realism is key. The flashbacks were fascinating and beautiful, and it’s as much the story of Leigh’s grandmother and parents as it is of Leigh. There’s also an exploration of mental illness that I haven’t yet seen in YA. Leigh’s mother has depression, and it just is. That can be the hardest thing of all for people to understand – Leigh’s mother couldn’t see a way out.

I discovered a lot to love about The Astonishing Colour of After. It’s a novel that I’ve been telling everyone to pick up, including people who don’t usually read YA!

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From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon

I loved When Dimple Met Rishi, so I couldn’t wait to read From Twinkle, With Love.

Like one of my favourite YA novels, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Twinkle starts chatting with a boy via email who says he’s in love with her, and she cannot help but try to figure out who it is. And then there’s the romance between Twinkle and Sahil, the nerdy twin brother of her current crush. Will she pick Sahil, his brother, or the mystery boy?!

I enjoyed Twinkle’s passion for film, especially for her favourite female film-makers, and the story is told through letters that she writes to them. I would’ve preferred a narration like Dimple, but I did enjoy that this was a huge part of the story, and would’ve loved to see even more film fangirling – I loved seeing Sahil and Twinkle shop for film costumes!

In From Twinkle, With Love, we meet a lot of teenagers from Twinkle’s school. Maddie’s a half awesome best friend, half Mean Girl. As for Sahil, on one hand he’s delightful and the best boyfriend and on the other, he’s in love with the idea of Twinkle – the girl he’s made up in his head – more than Twinkle herself. There’s a lot of drama in Twinkle’s world!

I devoured From Twinkle, With Love in two sittings and I may have shed a tear at the end… !

Shelf Swap with Beth Garrod

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I love swapping book recs, so I’m asking one person each month to pick five books from my Goodreads shelves that they would like to read and five books from their own shelves that they think I might enjoy.

I’m happy to welcome Beth Garrod, who is here to celebrate her newest book Access All Awkward, to Pretty Books for Shelf Swap! You can see my review of her first book, Super Awkward, here.

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Second Best Friend by Non Pratt
Non Pratt is one of my favourite writers. I love the snapshots into worlds that she
creates, and the friendships that just pop out of her pages. I can’t wait to get stuck
into this one!

Big Bones by Laura Dockrill
This books sounds like it has everything – big laughs, important subject matter and a main character you wish was your friend in real life. It’s going in my holiday packing FOR SURE.

I Was Born For This by Alice Oseman
Another one of my favourite writers? Check. A book about bands, friends, and boys? Check. An absolute cert for my TBR pile? 100%.

The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Stevens
I’ve only heard amazing things about this book. I’ve bought it, it’s by my bed, and I’m ready to jump in and be dazzled.

How Do You Like Me Now? by Holly Bourne
I’ve loved all of Holly Bourne’s books, so I am dying to read her latest one. And
anything that’s been compared to Bridget Jones is something I’m all over.

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5 BOOKS FROM BETH’S SHELVES THAT STACEY SHOULD READ

Noah Could Never by Simon James Green
Noah Can’t Even was one of my favourite books of the last few years. And this is the
follow up. I haven’t technically read it YET but I’ve read the blurb on that back and
that’s already amazing and I know every page of the book is going to be great. It’s
going to be uncomfortable, and awkward, and brilliantly painful and I just can’t wait. I’m actually putting off reading it, so it’s not over yet.

Stacey says: Noah Can’t Even is on my TBR, promise!

Jigsaw Man by Paul Britton
I love funny YA! I love books about finding yourself! I love books about graphic
crimes and the birth of forensic profiling. Variety is the spice of life, right? This is a
fascinating look into how forensic profiling was introduces into criminal investigations – basically, using a crime scene to work out the personality and lifestyle of the potential killer. I loved it. And added bonus – it means you’ll be second guessing anyone that ever makes eye contact with you ever again.

Stacey says: True crime is something I find interesting, but rarely ge to read. This seems like an excellent one for the TBR!

I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson
Hands down one of my favourite books of all time. I guess the thing with favourites is that you can’t quite explain what is about them that makes them so special – the
writing, the storyline, the relationships – you just know they stay with you for a long, long time after you finish them. And this is one of those. Just gorgeous.

Stacey says: I’ve actually read this! I can’t wait for Jandy Nelson’s latest novel.

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
I love a slow burning coming of age story. Sometimes it’s not the big moments that
make a book, but the bits in-between. Raw, honest, and heartbreaking, this made
me feel like I was 15 again.

Stacey says: I love the striking cover for this and I really enjoy coming-of-age stories.

The Cows by Dawn O’Porter
Three women have three different perspectives on what it means to them to be a
successful, fulfilled woman in their twenties/thirties. I loved it. And I loved the
conversation I had at a bus stop with a confused bouncer (the security kind – not pogo stick) who couldn’t understand that it wasn’t just about cows that go moo. I
explained it was about feminism, and society’s pressure and expectation on women,
especially to have children. He told me it sounded lovely, to keep smiling and to
make sure I had kids soon. If I wasn’t enjoying it so much, I would have left him my
copy.

Stacey says: As I could realate a lot to How Do You Like Me Now?, I probably need to pick this up too…

Thank you, Beth, for swapping shelves with me today!

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On My TBR: Summer

I love a summery TBR! Here are six fun contemporary novels I’ve picked to read over June, July and August.

The Wonder of Us by Kim Culbertson

Riya moved to Berlin while Abby stayed behind in California. Riya proposes an epic adventure: two weeks, six countries, unimaginable fun. I love travel novels, so I can’t wait to get stuck into this.

The Summer of Us by Cecilia Vinesse

I picked out another fabulous travel + friendship novel. Aubrey has two weeks before she leaves for college. She and her best friend, Rae, have planned one last trip across Europe. From Paris to Prague, they’re going to explore famous museums, sip champagne in fancy restaurants, and eat as many croissants as possible.

The Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman

30 years ago, something terrible happened to Luna’s mother. In Brooklyn, her mother’s birthplace, something impossible – magical – happens to Luna, and she meets her mother as a young woman back in the summer of 1977. I love a bit of time travel. I picked up this novel at the Lush book club last year, so I’m excited to finally read it.

Two Summers by Aimee Friedman

In this contemporary romance, we’re off to France! Summer says goodbye to her best friend, her secret crush and her single mum, and is off on a trip of a lifetime to visit her estranged artist father. But right before she’s about to board, her phone rings. Should she answer it?

Lying About Last Summer by Sue Wallman

Skye’s sister died in a tragic accident. Her parents think that a camp for troubled teenagers might help her process her grief. When Skye starts receiving text messages from someone pretending to be her dead sister, she knows it’s time to confront the past. But what if the danger is right in front of her? I thought it’d be fun to add a thriller to the TBR!

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

And finally, a road trip novel that I’ve wanted to read for ages. After breaking up with her boyfriend, Reagan is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. Her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts.

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10 Non-Fiction Books About Mental Health


For Mental Health Awareness Week (14-20th May), I thought I’d chat about 10 books about mental health that are on my wishlist, TBR, or that I’ve read.

Mad Girl: A Happy Life with a Mixed-up Mind by Bryony Gordon

Mad Girl is super accessible. It reads just like having a chat with Bryony over coffee about her OCD, and is really enjoyable and funny. Mad Girl does what I think we all should do: talk about mental health as if we were talking about the flu, honestly and without fear of judgement.

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A Series of Unfortunate Stereotypes: Naming and Shaming Mental Health Stigmas by Lucy Nichol

I was sent a copy recently by Trigger Press as part of their mental health awareness campaign. As someone who deals with anxiety, Lucy discusses the ways in which mental illness is viewed, and tackles unfair stereotypes e.g. that people with mental illness are ‘narcissists’, ‘hypochondriacs’ and ‘psycho’.

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Matt Haig suffers from depression (like 20% of people) and Reasons to Stay Alive is his award-winning book on how he copes with the illness. It’s loved by many and one I hope to finally read this year.

A Beginner’s Guide to Being Mental: An A-Z by Natasha Devon

One for millennials, this is a guide to mental illness, from A (anxiety) to Z (zero f**ks given).

It’s All Absolutely Fine by Ruby Elliot

Ruby’s illustrations show what it’s like to suffer from all kinds of mental health issues: anxiety, bipolar disorder, self-harm, eating disorders, and depression. We all know that mental health needs to be talked about more, and I really do think that humour – visual humour especially – can be a great way to do it.

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How to Survive the End of the World (When it’s in Your Own Head) by Aaron Gillies

If you don’t follow @TechnicallyRon on Twitter, do it now! He’s so hilarious and relatable, and I can’t wait to read his first book. He talks about the impact that anxiety has and gives readers some tools to fight back alongside his trademark humour.

The Time in Between: A Memoir of Hunger and Hope by Nancy Tucker

Nancy was diagnosed with anorexia and bulimia as a teenager and The Time in Between is her memoir of her experience and recovery.

The Self-Care Project by Jayne Hardy

Self care is something we all should do and I can’t wait to get my hands on this book, written by the founder and CEO of The Blurt Foundation, a charity that aims to increase awareness and understanding of depression.

It’s All In Your Head: A Guide to Getting Your Sh*t Together by Rae Earl

Aimed at teenagers, It’s All in Your Head is full of friendly advice, coping strategies and laugh-out-loud moments to get you through the difficult days written by someone who gets it.

Secrets for the Mad: Obsessions, Confessions and Life Lessons by Dodie Clark

A mix of doodles, poetry and prose all about self-care, mental health, life and relationships: “This is for the people with minds that just don’t stop; for those who feel everything seemingly a thousand times more than the people around them.”

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