Published by Penguin Random House Australia on January 30th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia
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Year Twelve is not off to a good start for Amelia. Art is her world, but her art teacher hates everything she does; her best friend has stopped talking to her; her mother and father may as well be living in separate houses; and her father is slowly forgetting everything. Even Amelia.
I was intrigued by Before You Forget from the first time that I heard about it at the Penguin Teen Australia YA Showcase in January. It’s an Aussie YA release that focuses on early onset Alzheimer’s and anorexia nervosa, both of which I have a deep interest in as a psychology major. I appreciated that the novel explored these two conditions but I felt that the book was a little bit lacking in character development.
The book follows Amelia, a Year 12 student who is passionate about art. Her father is acting increasingly strange as the days pass and her family is becoming more and more dysfunctional as her parents fight and grow apart. Amelia’s best friend is also acting strange and is unable to focus on anything but her weight and body image. As her father and her best friend grow more and more distant, Amelia is at a loss as to what to do. Her life is changing at a rate that she’s not comfortable with but there’s little that she can do. My main criticism of this novel is that I felt like there wasn’t enough character development in Amelia. I was hoping for a very emotional coming-of-age story with lots and lots of character development, but it seemed to me as though Amelia hadn’t really grown much from the start of the book to the end. It seemed like a wasted opportunity to me and I connected with the story much less than I expected to. I also had some problems with how the Alzheimer’s and anorexia aspects of the book were portrayed. I felt like it was approached in a very unemotional way and I just couldn’t really connect with the book and didn’t feel anything for the characters. I thought that the Alzheimer’s part of the book was tackled a little bit better than the anorexia aspect, which is unsurprising considering the novel is based on the author’s daughter’s experiences of having a father with younger onset Alzheimer’s. We got to see into the life of someone dealing with the disease as well as how it affects those around them. But I felt like the anorexia storyline with Amelia’s best friend, Gemma, was added just because the author could and it was handled without much thought or focus. There was no exploration of why Gemma might have developed an eating disorder and there was also no focus on treatment at all. It was unclear to me what the purpose of this storyline was and why it was incorporated into the novel.
I didn’t mind Amelia as a main character but I found her to be quite ordinary and forgettable. At times, she was quite unlikable and I couldn’t connect with her thought processes at all. There were also times when she seemed a little bit juvenile and it was difficult for me to connect with her. She had some relatable moments but overall, I found her to be quite hard to relate to and she definitely does not rank highly on my list of favourite/memorable characters. I wasn’t a big fan of any of the other characters in the book either. I did really enjoy reading about her father but the rest of the characters were either forgettable or not explored far enough for me to get to know. Having said that, I did appreciate some of the relationships in the book. The father-daughter relationship in the book was one that I ultimately really enjoyed and I also really appreciated that there wasn’t any romance in the book. When a potential love interest was introduced into the book, I was worried about the book switching its focus from the issues that mattered to the romance but I liked the way that the author handled it.
While I applaud Before You Forget for tackling some hard hitting and emotional topics, I found the execution of the book to be a little lacking. The majority of it was a bit devoid of emotion and it was difficult for me to connect with the story or the characters. I wish the book had been longer because I felt that some of the elements lacked a bit of focus and exploration.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
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