What you don’t remember can’t hurt you…
Cyan has lived at the Elsewhere Sanctuary for as long as he can remember, freed by Dr Haven from dark memories of his past life. But when Cyan finds a mysterious warning carved into the bones of a whale skeleton, he starts to wonder what he had to forget to be so happy.
New resident, Jonquil, begins to resist the sanctuary’s treatment, preferring to hold on to her memories – even the bad ones. So when Dr Haven resorts to harsher measures, Cyan embarks on a secret mission to discover the truth about the sanctuary…and himself.
As soon as I saw the title and description of The Memory Thieves I was intrigued, it is SO different to other children’s books out there at the moment, I couldn’t wait to read! It is fresh and exciting, with just the right levels of perplexity and peril to keep you on the edge of your seat.
The author’s crafting of the sanctuary and the world it inhabits, down to the finest details, was fantastic. The idea of the lockets, the ever-changing rooms, uniforms, and furniture to disorientate the residents is a brilliant concept. The manipulation was well thought out (including how some of this could be used in the character’s favour later in the story).
It was interesting to see that while the main characters are friends initially, they are not that close or bonded, of course, how could they be when they only knew each other on a surface level? Not fully understanding each other’s tendencies or triggers, and making fun of each other because of this. Seeing the understanding and empathy grow between Cyan and Ruby, as well as the two of them in regards to Teal was heart-warming. Learning that talking to each other and expressing their feelings wasn’t a bad thing, and that actually whilst it sometimes can be painful it is better to remember and receive support, than block things out be isolated, suffering in other ways. Then working together to fight against the evil Dr. Haven and rescue the imprisoned residents (as well as themselves) made for an epic adventure.
This is a magnificent story for children. Whilst regarding the intense subjects of trauma and mental health with sensitivity, the sinister undertones and moments of peril keep you on the edge of your seat, remaining a fun and engrossing read.
I thought it wonderful that at the end of the book the author explains his reasons for writing the book, as well as discussing mental health, the importance of talking about feelings and empathy. It even includes questions to prompt further discussion -great for our student book club!
A big thank you to Usborne Books and Netgalley for the e-arc to review.
Darren Simpson writes vivid, unruly fiction for older children. His debut novel Scavengers – a Guardian Best Book of the Year – was selected for 2019’s national Summer Reading Challenge and shortlisted for the Northern Ireland Book Award. His next children’s novel, The Memory Thieves, will be published in August 2021.
He also provided the story for The Dust on the Moth, a crowdfunded multimedia novel for adults.
Darren lives in Nottingham, where he works with the Literacy Trust to promote reading for pleasure. He loves using otherworldly settings and unconventional characters to explore bravery, self-discovery, and the endless quirks that make up our real lives.
If you’d like to find out more, visit darrensimpsonwrites.co.uk