Samantha Agatha McCoy, known as Sammie, is an American aged 17. Two months before the story opens she has been diagnosed with a fatal illness called Niemann-Pick type C. The illness involves very early memory loss similar to dementia. Sammie has plans. She is a star performer in her school debating society. Her ambition is to attend New York University and train to be a lawyer.
Sammie begins compiling a book she calls her Memory Book, intended for her future self. Avery’s novel is the Memory Book. Sammie imagines herself reading it when she cannot remember anything her book describes. The question the book poses is whether Sammie can fulfil her ambitions. How will those ambitions change as a result of her condition?
The strengths of this book are twofold. First, Sammie is a powerful and utterly credible character. The reader not only believes in Sammie’s battle against illness, but also subscribes to it. Second, the book tackles squarely a neglected issue. Most people associate memory loss either with the advent of old age or the result of a traumatic accident. It comes as a revelation that a young person can experience memory loss as a result of a progressive illness. The emotions that accompany such an experience are powerful and bitter. Avery faces them unflinchingly.