Review Detail

Middle Grade Fiction 116
Memories once lost
Overall rating
 
4.3
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
What worked:
Much of the plot’s conflict happens inside Ronnie’s mind. She’s a Korean American but frets that she’s not Korean enough. She doesn’t make friends easily but she has a best friend, her neighbor named Jack. Luckily, Jack is attending the same overnight camp as her but Ronnie is upset that he’s spending so much time with a boy named Sam. Plus, Sam seems to get along with everyone but Ronnie can’t figure out why he doesn’t want anything to do with her. Ronnie constantly considers the probability of good outcomes when making decisions and the author shares her thought process. 99% is the highest score she can give a situation since she leaves a 1% chance for the impossible. This attitude deters her from taking risks and complicates decisions involving potential friends and other campers. Perhaps Ronnie’s biggest internal problem involves the death of her mother. Her father constantly avoids any talk about his deceased wife and Ronnie is having trouble remembering her too.
Ronnie is 99% sure that the supernatural isn’t real so it’s ironic that she’s the only camper able to see the last Rhee witch, Min-Young. Ronnie does all she can to convince herself the gwishin doesn’t exist until she can’t ignore the evidence. Jack and Sam are engrossed in a Korean comic series and it becomes a reference source for the characters’ questions about ghost stories at the camp. Min-Young reveals some truths to Ronnie about her past which also means Ronnie’s the next target of a dokkaebi. Min-Young’s familiar, a black cat named Boojuk, acts as a messenger, guide, assistant, and defender. The campers are told the woods are off-limits due to dangers lurking within but Ronnie is forced to break the rules to find answers.
Ronnie is immediately befriended by an unusual girl named Olivia and their relationship highlights Ronnie’s struggles with friendship. Olivia is open and honest and always sticks by Ronnie’s side. Ronnie isn’t sure how to handle someone so friendly and she is slow to trust the girl. Olivia easily passes a camp trust activity with Ronnie but Ronnie isn’t able to display the same faith in her partner. Ronnie feels guilt for keeping secrets from her friend especially when she realizes Olivia is the one displaying true qualities of friendship. Ronnie won’t tell Olivia what she’s up to but she still wants Olivia to cover for her. This causes a rift between the characters and adds to Ronnie’s distress.
What didn’t work as well:
Many references to Korean folklore emerge at Ronnie’s camp which is a little confusing. There’s no mention of Camp Foster having a Korean focus so frequent mentions are unexpected. More information is introduced later in the book to bring clarity regarding the camp.
The final verdict:
The first half of the book sets the stage for a dramatic ending. The unknown dokkaebi stalking Ronnie is the main focus of the plot but her struggle to remember her mother is the underlying story. Overall, the book begins a little slowly but the suspense builds to a thrilling climax. I recommend you give this book a shot.
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