The film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind really sparked my interest in memory and fiction. The main character meets a woman and they think they are strangers but they start to realise that they know each other after all because their memories have been altered, and the reasoning behind this is slowly revealed throughout the story.
Here are some young adult novels relating to memory, whether altered artificially, sometimes as a result of certain traumatic events from someone’s life, or even from supernatural causes.
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
Aaron Soto is still dealing with complicated feelings over his dad’s suicide. His girlfriend Genevieve helps him with his grief and he feels he is happy. When Genevieve goes out of town, he starts talking to a boy named Thomas who starts to stir new feelings within him, and his friends start commenting negatively on his behaviour. He starts to consider going to the Leteo Institute, a place that erases your unwanted memories and feelings. One of his friends accidentally caused his brother’s death and had the procedure himself. But can you really permanently erase a part of who you are?
Everyone We’ve Been by Sarah Everett
Addison has been in a terrible accident and while at first she seems to be fine, she starts seeing and talking to a mysterious boy who no one else can see or hear. She starts to wonder if she is missing part of her memory and goes to a facility to figure out what is happening to her. She is shocked to realise that not only has she been there before, but she went to erase the memories of a boy—the same boy she has been imagining. As Addison starts to piece together why she took such extreme measures, she discovers more secrets about her family and starts to question whether erasing memories, even bad ones, is really the best way to move on.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
When the film came out a few years ago this book gained a renewed popularity. Fifteen-year-old Charlie starts writing letters about his life when he starts high school. He has been grappling with two different tragedies—the suicide of his middle school friend and the car accident which killed his beloved aunt Helen. He starts to make new friends at school, Sam and Patrick, and explores outside of his comfort zone. As he gets closer to his new friends and starts to develop feelings for Sam, he starts experiencing flashbacks about his past. The Perks of Being a Wallflower carefully explores the effects that traumatic events can have on behaviour and memory.
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is the first book in the Mara Dyer trilogy. Mara Dyer wakes up in a hospital after an accident at an abandoned insane asylum killed her friends but left her mostly unharmed. She is diagnosed with PTSD but starts having strange feelings that the tragedy was not simply an accident. Her family moves to Florida for a new start and to help her heal. As she starts remembering more about the night at the asylum, strange and violent events start occurring that she starts to suspect she might be causing. She also starts having vivid dreams which appear to be memories of another girl from long ago which might hold the key to her past and her strange new powers.