A year ago last week, my sister was the recipient of a renal transplant - that's a kidney, for those who don't do doctorspeak - and it was from a person who had passed away, someone older than she, and male. As grateful as she was for the help, there was an element of weird around the whole thing, for all of us. We humans have advanced scientifically enough so we can swap organs? If those organs could talk, the stories they could tell, about where they'd been before... we don't want them to talk, of course, but leave it to the creatively creepy Nicole Maggi to envision a parallel reality where a girl has a new heart... that remembers where its been...and beats for who it used to be, not for who it is now...
Summary: The first thing 18-year-old Georgie notices is that her heart doesn't beat... right. Like, in sync with the way her old heart beat. And the weird craving for strawberries? The way her own bedroom is unfamiliar and revolting? Suddenly her life -- which even her best friends know has been planned, planned, planned forever -- loses its familiar shape. Julliard doesn't seem like an overwhelming obsession anymore, even though she's been preparing to go there since she was ten. Everything that Georgie loved begins to lose its luster, and her memories are foggy and missing. Finding out what's driving her to be someone who she's not is easy -- it's the new heart, obviously. But, figuring out what to do about it is what takes everything Georgie's got.
Peaks: The premise to this novel is excellent - we've had all sorts of novels about people becoming cyborg for having mechanical parts inside of them - why not a novel about becoming part of someone else with a transplanted organ? This is original and unique, and because, by all accounts, horror is making a comeback, the timing for the novel is great and it could have done well as a horror novel. Figuring things out, which is what Georgie longs to do, is kept front and center throughout most of the narrative.
Valleys: If the author had chosen to write horror, it would have worked, but part realistic fiction, part speculative fiction with a foundation of crusading regarding the evils of sex-trafficking didn't hang together smoothly for me, though others may disagree. The beginning of the novel, which set up the loss of Georgie's memories and the negotiation with The Catch, was something which was sort of handed to the reader over a convenient few pages; if it had happened more slowly, so that the reader could feel and experience it, it would have felt more organic. I got the feeling that the novel was written from a ...soapbox, onto which the characters were manipulated around to make the theme work. I found the authorial voice was a little intrusive, with some fairly dense groupings of facts coming conveniently out through the mouths of the characters, who at times no longer sounded like young adults.
The novel includes a transperson, which is a positive; unfortunately, Georgie's world seems largely empty of diversity except if the diverse are prostitutes, pimps, cab drivers, or drug users. The transperson is "troubled" and so is someone who Georgie can help - which isn't so bad in itself, but... meh.
One of the goals for a main character is that they figure out their story on their own - so it's their story - however, if the characters had communicated better - or in some cases, at all, several unnecessarily fraught interactions could have been simply avoided. I found it odd that with the plethora of texting, phoning, email, and just being together in person options afforded to Georgie, she often acted on her own clues within her own mind, never telling anyone anything - and then wondering why they were furious.
I found Georgiana's level of activity after a heart transplant unbelievable in the extreme; though she was terrified of returning to the hospital, only a few weeks post-surgery, she was constantly running around and trying to investigate, getting pushed around, beat up, and otherwise threatening her health. (We can only wish a body post-transplant was that buoyantly resilient!) Finally, her romance seemed to happen very quickly - despite her heart "knowing" Nate, it still seemed fairly rushed and instantaneous.
Conclusion: This novel isn't anything like what I thought it would be - I thought it would be straightforward horror, with few subtleties. Instead, it's a novel full of unexpected twists. It's a fairly terrifying concept to have your body hijacked by a rogue organ -- and the author makes the case for it being equally terrifying for your life to be hijacked by sex-trafficking. Those readers who appreciate a dramatic, ripped-from-the-headlines, After School Special type of novel which gently lectures them and reminds them how lucky they are and how they should feel something for those not so lucky will enjoy this.
I received my copy of this book courtesy of the publisher. After February 3rd, you can find THE FORGETTING by Nicole Maggi at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!