Also published on this date: Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wednesday, July 25, 2012: Maximum Shelf: False Memory


Hyperion: False Memory by Dan Krokos

Hyperion: False Memory by Dan Krokos

Hyperion: False Memory by Dan Krokos

Hyperion: False Memory by Dan Krokos

False Memory

by Dan Krokos

In his engrossing debut novel set in a futuristic world, the first in a planned trilogy, Dan Krokos zeroes in on four teens trying to determine their own futures while they remain unsure of their past.

When 17-year-old Miranda North, who narrates, wakes up in a mall, she knows only two things about herself: her age and her name. She has no idea who she is, why she's there or where she belongs. She realizes from her sighting of the Terminal Tower that she must be in Cleveland, and Krokos give the first hint at the humor sprinkled throughout the story: "What bad luck to wake up in Cleveland.... Not San Diego or Dallas, or a place where the sun shines more than three days a year," she thinks. She asks a mall security guard for help, explaining, "I lost my memory." He thinks she's messing with him and gives her a hard time. The mall cop seems more resentful toward Miranda than helpful, and when he places a hand on her shoulder, something snaps; her martial arts instincts kick in. She flips the mall cop onto his back. Miranda feels as if her brain "has been replaced by a huge glowing coal." The mall's patrons begin to stampede, some of them leaping to their deaths in panic. She can't figure out what triggered their reaction or how. Just when she thinks she's completely alone, she looks up and sees someone--a guy around Miranda's age, and he smells like roses.

Krokos successfully places us in Miranda's shoes. As readers, we know only what Miranda tells us, and she knows only what other people tell her. The one person left in the mall after the tragic mass exodus is Peter, and he reassures Miranda that what happened was "not your fault." He explains that when she felt threatened by the cop, Miranda "released a burst of psychic energy," which affected the brains of the mall patrons. An energy that smells like roses. She used to be able to control it, before her memory loss. She'd noticed other automatic responses, such as scanning for hiding places: "No thought involved, only movement, which is scary when you think about it." Peter says that the two of them are part of a foursome who've grown up together. When he takes her to their underground compound, she has warm feelings for Dr. Tycast, who runs the place. Noah and Olive, the other half of their foursome, ran away. Why?, Miranda wonders. Peter thinks Miranda had not planned to go with them. Is he right? Will she ever know for sure?

The crux of teen life is not knowing quite where you stand, and Krokos exploits this universal truth to brilliant effect. Miranda and Peter go out in search of Noah and Olive, following a tracking system that Peter had planted. Peter seems the most grounded, yet as events unfold, we learn that Noah had access to information that Peter does not have--information that concerns their safety. Noah learns of a renegade named Rhys, who could hold the key to the foursome's role in whatever experiments are going on, and whoever is controlling their minds. But can they track down Rhys? And even if they do, can or will Rhys help them? Other questions continue to plague Miranda. She learns that Noah was her boyfriend. Then why did he leave her behind and take Olive with him instead? Much of Miranda's journey is about learning whom she can trust. The teens believe they are being trained to act as peacekeepers, but with Miranda's violent knee-jerk response to the cop, she believes they are hard-wired for violence. The four join forces to search for answers and discover they are part of a far larger plot than they'd ever imagined. At one point, Miranda realizes, "The past isn't mine. It died... in that alley. But the future can be." Through Miranda's realization, Krokos emphasizes one of life's great truths: that we cannot change the past; all we have are the choices we make as we move forward. Miranda's epiphany may well be a relief to teens who believe that their future has already been determined for them. Miranda would say it's just beginning.

Krokos provides enough answers to bring this gripping launch to his trilogy to a solid conclusion, but he also raises a cliffhanger question that will ensure readers' return for the second installment. --Jennifer M. Brown

Hyperion, $17.99, hardcover, 336p., ages 12-18, 9781423149767

Hyperion: False Memory by Dan Krokos


Dan Krokos: The Puzzle of Adolescence

Dan Krokos

Where did the idea for False Memory come from?

The idea for the teens' ability to control fear came from [an unpublished] manuscript I worked on, which was an urban fantasy. I knew I wanted to write a YA thriller where a teen didn't know who she was. Her name was Miranda North, and that's all I knew. I decided to combine those two concepts.

Did you map this out as a series from the beginning?

The story started as one book, but by the time I submitted it to publishers, it had become three books. The ending of the first book was originally a little quieter and a little happier, but then I thought, I could kind of drop a bomb at the end. Everything's wrapped up from the first book, but I wanted to suggest that the second book would be scarier and bigger than the first book.

The only reason I agreed to do a trilogy was if I could connect them in such a way that they wouldn't feel like branches to the first story. The first book feels very much like a thriller with futuristic elements to it. I wanted Book Two to have those same elements but be a bit scarier; the culture is straight out of my nightmares. Book Two is bigger than Book One, and Book Three feels a little more personal. The series took on a bell curve shape.

Why memory? Adolescence is so volatile anyway. Sometimes you feel like a stranger to yourself. Is that part of what's going on here?

That's what I was going for. The ultimate question for teens is, "Who am I?" I'd like to think that all of Miranda's experiences in the book are teen experiences, just on steroids. Miranda's faced with that question the whole book, all she knows is what people are telling her. As a teen, you're trying to figure it out for yourself.

Dr. Tycast acts as a kind of benevolent father to them, yet Noah overhears something that makes him distrust Tycast.

There's so much negativity happening around them. I wanted them to have an anchor in the middle of it all--a father figure who would never do anything willingly to hurt them. At the same time, I wanted them to question whether he could be trusted.

Will Rhys, the rogue, have a bigger role in the next book?

Midway through the writing of False Memory, I thought of a rogue that was not a part of their team but separate, with a lot of layers I wanted to reveal over the series. I wanted the threat of him looming over the whole book. Rhys's role has changed a few times. I'm writing the third book right now, so I'm interested to see how that's going to end up.

Why did you set the story in Cleveland? Is that because you know it well?

I hadn't traveled a lot. I could write easily about them running around Cleveland, and the characters could hide in plain sight. No one really cares what's going on in Cleveland. Everyone minds their own business. I knew that in Books Two and Three, I'd branch out into other settings.

You write about the attractions among the four teens on this team, but it's very much in the background. We know that Miranda and Noah were an item, and we sense some feelings between her and Peter, too. In one of her memories, Miranda asks Peter, "Why are you so good to me?"

And he says, "That's for me to know, and you to never find out." We'll never see what it was like for them growing up together. As they get older, feelings start to develop. I didn't want the love triangle or love square to come to the forefront. It's not about Miranda trying to choose.

At one point, Miranda states that their training forbids sexual involvement.

I took kung fu when I was younger. We had a whole discussion about this. Our instructor would do this training in China where abstinence would be required for a long time. Monks, instead of expelling their sexual energy, would recycle it and use that energy in other ways. It's why they can balance on one finger and break bricks. I knew the Roses would be as powerful as they could possibly be, and their teacher would bring that to them. I didn't want to write about sex. It's not a copout; it's a real thing. That kind of martial arts practice makes them superhuman. I wanted them to have that.

Several scenes heighten the reality of the natural tension between teens and adults. And of course, the members of Miranda's team rebel against the establishment.

There's a lot of tension between teens and adults. Self-reliance is encouraged, and knowing how to work through problems on their own. But you better complete your mission and come back--or else. Peter tracks Noah and Olive to that hotel [after they run away]. He wanted a way to find them. Peter didn't ask permission to do that. Is that something he felt he had to do, or does he feel he has the power to make that choice? When you give someone that much power, how do you control them?

At one point, Miranda says, "The past isn't mine. It died... in that alley. But the future can be." Teens often believe that one choice can define them, but the message from Miranda is that we can decide our future by the choices we make, going forward.

That was a huge line for me. I think a lot of people focus on the past, which you can't change. You can make the best of each moment, or keep repeating the same mistakes. At the end, Miranda has to realize it's not what she came from or who made her but what she does with what she has. --Jennifer M. Brown


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