Saturday, April 27, 2013

Unremembered by Jessica Brody

When Freedom Airlines Flight 121 crashes into the ocean during a flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo, there is only one survivor. That survivor is a stunningly beautiful sixteen year old girl who cannot remember her name or any other details of her life. Strangely, she is not listed on the passenger manifest for the flight. Given the name Violet by a nurse because of her purple eyes, she does not remember anything from before the flight. Violet was discovered with a locket which has the Sanskrit symbol, the eternal know on one side and is inscribed with S + Z = 1609 on the back. But Violet has no idea what the inscription means nor who gave her the locket. Doctors believe that Violet is suffering from amnesia and so they post her picture on the news and on the internet in an attempt to try to learn her identity and find her parents.

Even more unsettling to Violet, is the appearance at the hospital of a handsome, brown-haired boy with maple eyes and a crooked smile who causes an intense response in her. He tells Violet that she shouldn't be here and that he has come to take her back. However nothing happens and the boy disappears leaving Violet believing that he was an impostor.

When no one comes to claim Violet, she is placed with a foster family, Heather and Scott Carlson, who have a thirteen year old son, Cody. They take Violet to their home in Wells Creek about three hours outside of Los Angeles. Gradually Violet uncovers small clues to her past. The locket is one clue, but also she finds a small piece of paper with "Trust him" written on it. Violet also discovers she's very good at numbers, after quickly calculating the cost of a grocery bill.

The boy Violet saw in the hospital approaches her again in the supermarket parking lot, where he tells Violet that her real name is Sera, short for Seraphina. He also tells her that they fled after discovering something about her and he entreats her to try to remember and not to trust anyone. He tells her that she knows she was not on the plane that crashed. But Sera still doesn't believe him so she sets out to prove that she was on the plane.
She manages to convince Cody to take her to Los Angeles to see if she can stimulate a memory of her boarding a plane. The travel to LAX where they inadvertently meet the gate attendant, Brittany, who was working the day of Flight 131. She doesn't remember Sera because she's certain that she would have definitely remembered seeing a girl who was as beautiful as Sera.

Then on a shopping trip with Heather, the mysterious boy appears in the dressing room while Heather is paying for their purchases. The clues he reveals, such as his name, Lyzender (Zen), and who Sera really is and the circumstances of her life, leave her reeling. But when Zen quotes the beginning of a Shakespearean sonnet, Sera is able to remember the poem - her first memory. The fact that she can remember something connected to this boy leaves Sera conflicted, confused and in denial. Despite Zen pleading with her to meet him at a certain address, Sera refuses his offer and runs away. With the help of Cody, who has never had a beautiful girl speak to him, Sera begins to unravel a mystery that leads to more and more disturbing revelations.

Not wishing to bring harm to her foster parents and Cody, Sera leaves in the middle of the night. But she soon becomes involved in a cat and mouse game with those tracking her every movement in an effort to capture her. When Sera is captured by Rio, a man who has been following her, she is freed by Zen who takes her to hide in a school that is closed for the summer holidays. There Zen helps Sera regain her memories and to understand what she is. Cody manages to catch up with Sera and Zen and helps by securing a vehicle for them to escape. However, when Sera is seen and recognized by teens at a gas station and her picture is tweeted on the internet, her location is discovered by someone who will stop at nothing to find her and bring her back to the life she had before.

Unremembered is a unique story that involves both time travel and genetic engineering that doesn't quite live up to expectations. Brody succeeds in keeping her readers interested with the mystery surrounding "Violet", the use of action sequences and plenty of plot twists. But this is a novel that doesn't have much in terms of character development. Instead, the focus is on the protagonist who has a major problem (she doesn't remember who she is and she's being hunted ) that needs to be resolved quickly. It therefore, rushes from one scene to the next, giving only cursory effort to the development of characters Sera, Cody, Zen, Rio, and the nasty antagonist, Alixter, who appears at the end of the novel. The focus is on the innocent individual fighting against an evil scientist and his minions who are attempting to reclaim his trillion dollar creation.

Violet/Sera is an interesting character who at first is completely and believably undone by her current circumstances. She can't remember how to open a door or use a computer yet she can solve a major mathematical problem and speak various languages. She has a strange tattoo on her wrist and incredible physical attributes. She's rebellious and strong-willed, capable of feeling deep love and taking risks.

Her true love, Lyzender, is not well developed, except that he is handsome and very loyal to Sera. He's as determined to save her as she is to save him. In contrast, Cody is probably the best developed character in the novel; he's faithful, hopelessly attracted to Sera, intelligent and resourceful. The one characteristic I felt was out of place about Cody in this novel, was his age. I felt that it would have been more appropriate if he was fifteen or sixteen years old.

Those readers who enjoyed Mary Pearson's The Adoration of Jenna Fox will be interested in this novel, but will find Pearson's novel more appealing.

Unremembered poses the question of what makes us human? How much of our physical bodies make us human? Is there something more than just our bodies that make us human? It's not an in-depth exploration - only a superficial mention that could have been explored more in the novel.

The next book in the series is UnForgotten which is expected to be released March, 2014. I am hopeful that Brody will use this second novel to detail more about the characters and give us further facts about the future world to which Sera and Zen belong.

Book Details:
Unremembered by Jessica Brody
New York: Farrar Straus Giroux 2013
304 pp.

No comments: