My name is Hope Arden, and you won’t know who I am. We’ve met before – a thousand times. But I am the girl the world forgets.
It started when I was sixteen years old. A slow declining, an isolation, one piece at a time.
A father forgetting to drive me to school. A mother setting the table for three, not four. A teacher who forgets to chase my missing homework. A friend who looks straight through me and sees a stranger.
No matter what I do, the words I say, the people I hurt, the crimes I commit – you will never remember who I am.
That makes my life tricky. But it also makes me dangerous . . .
Published by Orbit.
An eARC of this book was received from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Hope Arden cannot be remembered. Sixty seconds out of sight, touch and hearing of someone, and they no longer have any memory of her, and will greet her as though seeing her for the first time. She was sixteen when people first began to forget, all of her family slowly forgetting who she was, apart from her sister Gracie, who suffered brain damage as a result of measles when she was young. When Hope’s mother asks her when she’s leaving, assuming that Hope is a friend of the family who is only staying temporarily, Hope decides to leave.
How else can you live your life, as someone who is forgotten? You cannot hold down a job, or get medical help, and you do not exist, according to government agencies, for people working there will forget you within a minute. Hope survives the only way she can figure out, by becoming a criminal.
The novel is told from Hope’s point-of-view, all of gorgeous and heartbreaking and vivid enough that the reader, at least, cannot forget Hope. North has thought this through, too – though Hope is forgotten by people, she’s remembered by computers and cameras. There’s an electronic trail following Hope and her crimes, and it’s natural that someone is going to begin to follow her.
Parallelling Hope’s course through the world is the rise of an app, Perfection. Sign up for Perfection, and it will help you become Perfect – you earn points for eating the right food, buying the right things, going to the right places. Perfection is incredibly creepy, and incredibly likely to be something that would exist and people would use. Who wouldn’t want to be Perfect, right?
It would be incredibly easy to hate a character like Hope. She takes advantage of people, uses her ability to be forgotten heartlessly at times, and, well, she steals for a living, usually without thought for the people she steals from. And yet, reading this incredibly compelling book, I didn’t find myself hating her once. She’s given little pieces of hope – she finds someone like her, their relationship only “remembered” by the letters they wrote to themselves and each other. And she finds a crusade in fighting against Perfection, even as the rest of the world seems to embrace it open-armed.
I loved the world that North creates around Hope – the darknet, the underbelly of the internet, and the people she encounters through it, all of whom are equally as fascinating as Hope. I love the fact that Hope has to find her way around electronic records over and over, and the way the people who encounter her “fill in” memories and explanations about her impact on their lives, even as they can’t remember her themselves.
My only real quibble is Gracie, Hope’s younger sister who was brain-damaged by a bout of measles. She’s the only person who can still remember Hope, something that skates very close to the “magical disabled person” trope. But North does give enough foundation to this as the book goes on (and as we learn more about Perfection, and how it may mirror something like Gracie’s brain damage) that it’s not something that detracted from my enjoyment of the book overmuch. And if you’re worried about potential magic cures, then you needn’t worry – what happens to people in this book is permanent, and it’s all about dealing with the repercussions of events.
This is a book which is incredibly compelling, and incredibly heartbreaking at times. I could not put it down. It’s the first of North’s books I’ve read, and I suspect I’ll be devouring the rest of her novels very soon.