Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release: November 12, 2013
LOUD. There was an accident. Ember knows at least that much. She was driving. The car was totaled. She suffered back injuries and brain trauma. But she is alive. That's the only thing left she can cling to.
AWAKE. Eight months later, Ember feels broken. The pieces of her former self no longer fit together. She can't even remember the six weeks of her life leading up to the accident. Where was she going? Who was she with? And what happened during those six weeks that her friends and family won't talk about?
LOST. One by one, Ember discovers the answers to these questions, like a twisted game of dominoes. And little by little, the person she used to be slips further and further away.
In the wake of her critically praised young adult psychological thrillers, Tighter and All You Never Wanted, National Book Award finalist Adele Griffin has created another triumph. Loud Awake and Lost is an unflinching story of loss and recovery.
Amnesic characters abound in young adult fiction, clustering in a mass almost large enough to create an entire sub-genre: memory loss books. As much as this ploy captivates me, it is no secret that scattered memories are growing more and more common, and therefore authors must work harder and harder to make their tales unique. Some do not succeed in separating their stories from others, but with her newest novel, Adele Griffin excels in the art of individuality. Loud Awake and Lost is a precisely worded equation, developed to transform small doses of memory loss into an effective plot.
Griffin first minimizes her amnesia input by only stealing six weeks from her protagonist. This block of time initially seems small enough that Ember can slide back into her old life, but these six weeks were heavy with life-changing events. Ember quickly discovers that she changed as a person in the last days before her accident and spends the rest of the book uncovering who and what brought about the lost side of her personality, dividing her characterization into three contrasting sections. Readers see who the main character is now and hear hints about the two earlier versions of herself, which creates a split personality that gives Ember's voice an unreliable tone. Griffin could not have created this contradictory character development without such a short block of blank time.
The author also cuts back on the memory loss ploy by shaving away excess flashbacks. Stingy with details, she shares bits of Ember's past in sentence-long snippets rather than page-long breaks into the character's history, keeping readers waiting on their toes for the next reveal. Griffin only unveils information when the protagonist earns it, either by outright asking or engaging in a memory-triggering experience, which forces readers to cheer for Ember as she pieces together and accepts her past. Loud Awake and Lost does not take the easy way out when it comes to disclosing its protagonist's history, and as a result, the story flourishes with suspense and character development.
Each of these elements travels on its own through the literary function Griffin writes, but they combine to form the greatest output of all. When Ember's uncertainty about who she is blends with her struggle to find out, there is plenty left to the unknown and an equal number of opportunities for plot twists. Loud Awake and Lost pops with little surprises until the end, when one final discovery blows the rest of the story to bits. I somehow did not predict the conclusion, but after reading the book's final page, I felt compelled to reread each moment that I retrospectively recognized as a subtle clue, just to appreciate Griffin's smooth foreshadowing.