A teenager who undergoes unconventional therapy for memory loss becomes disturbed by what she learns when she starts remembering in this YA mystery.
Seventeen-year-old Ellie Savage’s parents run the famous Narcosis Clinic in Seattle. Patients there receive a variety of treatments while they sleep for three months. Dr. Belinda Savage is a psychiatrist and plastic surgeon while her husband, Warren, specializes in dermatology. The two physicians have treated Ellie as well, primarily to help her overcome retrograde amnesia. This stems from an incident at a boarding school a couple of years ago—evidently so traumatic that Ellie’s brain is making her forget. She befriends fellow patient Dean Mathews, a 19-year-old Canadian pop star whose lisp causes him to avoid conversation and most social interactions. Ellie, however, truly likes schoolmate Cole Evans, but he barely acknowledges her. It turns out that Cole is irate because the two had a romantic moment last summer, which Ellie apparently later disregarded. But she is genuinely shocked upon hearing this, as she doesn’t remember any of it or that she was once best friends with Cole’s twin, Marley. Ellie soon links her lapses in memory to the Narcosis Clinic and suspects her parents of something devious. Cypress’ (Slay Me, 2018, etc.) novel deftly explores the dark side of therapy while retaining an appropriate sense of humor. Ellie, for example, ultimately creates Ellie-Me, essentially a manifestation of her pre-Narcosis self. It’s a remarkable display of how she copes with fleeting memories. But there are also welcome comedic touches, particularly when she responds to Ellie-Me around others, who can’t see the latter. The relationship between Cole and Ellie is absorbing (it’s indisputably a mutual affection) while the twins’ dynamic—they’re supportive but playfully combative—is likewise effective. The plot eventually spins into thriller territory but shrewdly incorporates themes of parenting and self-confidence. Cypress’ prose throughout is colorful: a crowd getting into “a ginormous frenzy” and Ellie walking “in a fog of convoluted memories and migraine medicine.”
Well-defined characters in a zigzagging medical tale rife with surprises.