The Forgotten Memories of Vera Glass, by Anna Priemaza (November,2021 by Harry N. Abrams), is a moving YA real-world fantasy, that is both a mystery and a meditation on loss.
In Vera’s version of the real world, everyone is born with a magical knack of some sort–Vera can open locks, her older brother has light magic, and her younger brother can change the colors of anything he wants to. These are all standard gifts, but others have powers that are beyond ordinary…and don’t always use them ethically.
Vera is happy with her family and her tight group of friends, until she’s suddenly struck by the sense that’s she’s lost something important. There’s a sink-hole in her heart, and she’s not alone. At first she tries to shrug it off, going on with her ordinary life–school, hanging out with her friends, getting ready for Halloween, her church’s youth-group–but the sense of loss just keeps building, and she realizes she’s not alone in feeling this way.
So she sets out to solve the mystery….before all that’s left is the ache of unremembered loss. Is the cause of the empty places in her heart supernatural? aliens? science gone askew? witchcraft? But when you don’t know what you’ve lost, it’s hard to find it again…
I won’t tell anything more about the details of the story, because that would spoil the fun of following the clues building up to a climax, an ending that presents a very satisfactory, and magically intriguing, moral dilemma. (nb–I read the ending partway through, which I regretted, because of wanting to know if everything worked out all right, and it did, so now you don’t have to).
It’s YA in that it’s about high school kids, with dating moving towards real romance, but it’s a fine read for older middle grade kids too. These are high school kids still on the younger end of things, still dressing up for Halloween, still just starting out. There’s some familiar school drama–some misunderstandings, some strains in friendships–that is not quite the high stakes of books that are firmly young adult.
One thing that sets this book apart from most magical mg/ya books is that Vera is a committed Christian–her belief in God and her church community are foundations of her life, and this is conveyed in a matter-of fact way that will, I think, ring true to lots of readers with similar, every-day beliefs who don’t often see themselves in teen fiction.
The sense of loss that Vera and others around are feeling is, in this case, tied to a very specific set of circumstances, but it feels universal too–so much of growing up involves moving on from people, places, and things that once brought joy, without necessarily realizing this is happening. But the most memorable thing about the book is, hands-down, the very intriguing mystery of the forgotten memories of the title! It’s a good read, of the sort that feels both quick and immersive.
disclaimer-review copy received from its publicist