It’s been eight months since 17-year-old Ember Leferrier almost died in a car accident. Her injuries were so severe that since then, she’s been living in a rehabilitation center, working to re-learn how to use her body, as well as coming to grips with the fact that she’ll never be quite the same again, physically or mentally. The scarring on her face and body is one thing. The fact that dance is no longer in her future, is another. She’s still got some gaps in her memory—six weeks that the doctors say might be gone forever—but now, finally, she’s headed home.
Once she’s settled in, all of her loved ones—her best friend, her ex-boyfriend, her parents—are as sympathetic, as supportive and as empathetic as she could want, but Ember can’t help but feel that something is…off. She feels, deep down at a core level, that something significant changed in her life in the six weeks that preceded her accident. Something that those closest to her either aren’t telling her, or that they don’t know about.
So, using physical clues she finds in her belongings, verbal clues dropped by those around her, and a new, earth-shakingly profound connection she makes with a street artist—who may or may not be connected to her lost weeks—she starts trying to reclaim her memories.
They’re two very different books, but in Loud Awake and Lost, Adele Griffin explores some of the same territory that she did in Tighter: lost memory and paranoia, the trustworthiness of one’s own perception, individual reality versus shared reality. The big difference, though—beyond how different the two protagonists and their support networks are—is that while Tighter is the story of a girl spiraling down and down and down until she hits bottom, Loud Awake and Lost is the story of a girl healing, rediscovering herself and coming up out of the dark. Though it deals with heavy issues—guilt and loss and grief—ultimately, it’s a much more life-affirming, hopeful, optimistic read than Tighter*.
I have no doubt that the Big Reveal toward the end will be viewed by some readers as a twist ending, as a GOTCHA moment. But it didn’t read like that to me. It never felt to me that Griffin was trying to fool us, to perform any sleight-of-hand, to razzle-dazzle the reader—or, for that matter, Ember—with any sort of M. Night Shyamalan shenanigans. From the very first page, it felt like she was concerned only with following Ember’s emotional and physical journey—with being true to the characters and to the story. Although plenty of stuff HAPPENS, the book is more focused on Ember’s internal journey than her external one: While that aspect might turn off some readers, it’s likely to resonate deeply with others.
For kicks, pair it with Life is but a Dream by Brian James. James’ book has a very different premise—it’s about a teenage girl dealing with schizophrenia—but both books follow a heroine who is aware that she might not be able to entirely trust her own perception, but wants to figure herself out by following her own instincts nonetheless.
*I hope I’m not scaring anyone off! Tighter is FANTASTIC. I loved it SO. MUCH.
If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy might be making stuff for her Etsy shop while re-watching Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Black Books or Twin Peaks. Well, that or she’s hanging out on Twitter. Or both.