The powerful story of two teenagers finding friendship, comfort, and first love in the days following 9/11 as their fractured city tries to put itself back together. On the morning of September 11, 2001, sixteen-year-old Kyle Donohue watches the first twin tower come down from the window of Stuyvesant High School. Moments later, terrified and fleeing home to safety across the Brooklyn Bridge, he stumbles across a girl perched in the shadows. She is covered in ash and wearing a pair of costume wings. With his mother and sister in California and unable to reach his father, a New York City detective likely on his way to the disaster, Kyle makes the split-second decision to bring the girl home. What follows is their story, told in alternating points of view, as Kyle tries to unravel the mystery of the girl so he can return her to her family. But what if the girl has forgotten everything, even her own name? And what if the more Kyle gets to know her, the less he wants her to go home? The Memory of Things tells a stunning story of friendship and first love and of carrying on with our day-to-day living in the midst of world-changing tragedy and unforgettable pain—it tells a story of hope.
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What worked: This is a powerful tale of 9-11 shown through the eyes of a teen living in Brooklyn. Sixteen-year-old Kyle is in school when the attacks happen. School is closed and on the way home he encounters a girl covered in ash with wings standing on a rail over the bridge. Out of the horror and confusion that happens, he is drawn to the girl and gets her off the bridge. He takes her home. The girl doesn't know her name or how she ended up there. The author nails the emotions that circulated on that day and the ones that followed. Kyle tries to make sense of a world that is crumbling right in front of him. The girl is almost like a metaphor of what most felt that day: the confusion, horror, disbelief, and the surrealism of it all.
Kyle's story is basically ours too. We see his disbelief and fear--especially with his father who is on the police force and at Ground Zero. We hear about his friend's loved ones that were working at the Towers when the attacks happened. Then we see how hope prevails through it all. It's through the little acts like Kyle having a complete stranger stay at his house. It's all his love for his disabled uncle and how he refuses to believe he won't recover. It's also the times Kyle looks to find some normalcy in his life like watching a cartoon to walking to Coney Island. It's the stolen kisses. I loved all of this!
Another bonus is the girl's voice is told in free verse. Readers get a glimpse of her memories and a painful past that she's not sure she wants to revisit.
Emotional packed tale of that infamous day where through it all, hope refuses to be silent.
Gae Polisner takes all these emotions and crafts it into an exquisite story about loss, pain, survival, and perseverance.
I knew from the very first page that The Memory of Things was going to pull at my heart strings in some many different ways. But as Gae Poliner responded, it pulled but it didn’t break. And that shows just how resilient the human heart can be- we can feel pain, sorrow, intense loss, and with the power of hope, love, and tolerance, we can mend all those wounds and come out even stronger.
Underneath the historical context, The Memory of Things is lyrical, moving, and real. Polisner captures every hour and moment accurately in a physical and emotional way. Told through the eyes of two teenagers, one in prose and one in almost poetic way, this coming-of-age story is one everyone should read- young and old. It is one that should be read and talked about.
The Memory of Things is highly recommended. It is one of those books I know will never leave me and has left a tiny mark on my heart that I don’t ever want to go away.
Unique two voice narration