Title: (Don’t You) Forget about Me
Author: Kate Karyus Quinn
No. of Pages: 352
Genre: Young Adult; Science Fiction
Origins: Harper Teen
Release Date: 10 June 2014
Bottom Line: Very different and somewhat odd
“Welcome to Gardnerville.
A place where no one gets sick. And no one ever dies . . . of natural causes.
But there’s a price to pay for paradise. Every four years, the strange power that fuels the town takes its toll and a teenager commits a horrible crime—a crime that sends other teens to their graves. And every four years, the killer is locked up in the reformatory, only to emerge years later, a shell of their former self.
Four years ago, Skylar’s sister, Piper, was taken away after leading her classmates onto the trestle bridge and commanding them to jump to their deaths. Since then, Skylar has lived in a numb haze, waiting for Piper to be released. But the secrets Piper left behind keep taunting Skylar—whispering that the only way to truly get her sister back is to stop Gardnerville’s murderous cycle once and for all.”
Thoughts: Gardnerville is an unusual town. No one dies of natural causes but every four years, something happens to the town’s teen population that results in multiple deaths. The townspeople do not know what will happen or when. Nor do they know which teens will fall victim to the town’s more malevolent influences. During a Fourth Year, people just hold their breath and hope the craziness does not impact a loved one. In their eyes, it is a small price to pay for their general health. To readers, this mindset will seem insane and yet make an odd amount of sense. After all, military strategies throughout history concentrate on sacrificing the fewest number of people for the greater good. To Gardnerville residents, this is just following that same strategy.
Ms. Quinn plays up the contradictory nature of the town and townspeople to perfection. Readers will swing from confusion to sadness to anger and back again at the townspeople’s general resignation at the state of things. At first, Skylar embodies this initial acquiescence with her incessant drug use, yet her growing anger and need for answers fuels the story’s tension. Her questions mirror a reader’s own, and the story finally progresses when she stops hiding and starts seeking a resolution.
While Gardnerville and its mysteries are all fantasy, Ms. Quinn incorporates as much real-world minutiae as possible to lessen the fantasy feel. One of the most intriguing ways she does so is by using song titles as chapter titles as well as the book’s title. Each song does hint at the chapter’s proceedings without spoiling anything. The songs themselves also play a key role in Skylar’s research and her memories of her sister to the point where their use as chapter titles is not a gimmick.
While fantasy always requires some suspension of disbelief, the answers Skylar uncovers may prove to be too much for most readers. The town’s power source is particularly unusual and difficult to accept. Also, the answers Skylar discovers come a bit too quickly for comfort. In fact, rarely does she have to seek them out as answers to her questions seemingly come to her. It is almost as if the town was waiting for someone like Skylar to ask these questions. Still, one has to praise Ms. Quinn for attempting something very different. She ignores all trends in young adult fiction with her unique take on life and death.
(Don’t You) Forget about Me is one of the more creative plots to hit bookshelves in recent months. It is far from a perfect story, but the premise is engaging and very different. It hits on mankind’s fear of sickness and the desperation that causes people to seek potentially harmful solutions. It also captures their complacency in spite of the Fourth Year terror. Skylar’s burgeoning wakefulness to this sets up the clash between change and status quo and creates an intriguing story filled with the unexpected and the unusual. The challenge for readers will be to just go with the plot as it unfolds and not dwell on some of the stranger occurrences/answers.