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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

Zahra Gaines is missing. After three long years away, Ruthie Hayden arrives in her hometown of Anchorage, Alaska to this devastating news. Zahra was Ruthie's best friend--the only person who ever really understood her--and she vows to do whatever it takes to find her. Zahra vanished from a party just days before Ruthie's return, but the more people she talks to, the more she realizes that the Zahra she knew disappeared long before that fateful night. Gone is the whimsical, artistic girl who loved books and knew Ruthie's every secret. In her place is an athlete, a partier, a girl with secrets of her own. Darker still are the rumors that something happened to Zahra while Ruthie was gone, something that changed her forever... As Ruthie desperately tries to piece together the truth, she falls deeper and deeper into her friend's new world, circling closer to a dangerous revelation about what happened to Zahra in the days before her disappearance--one that might be better off buried…

I Know You Remember

by Jennifer Donaldson

Overall Book Review:

Wow. I just finished this book last night and I have been thinking about it a lot since. Never having read anything by Jennifer Donaldson before, I began reading with no expectations. I haven’t read a YA book this good in a long time! It’s going to be hard to write this review and not give anything away, but I will try my best. 

Something I don’t think about often is the fact that as readers, we often go into a book with only the facts that the author gives us about the characters. There is trust involved there, and an author can be as creative as they want with storyline and plot and characters–they can even string the reader along with a false narrative if they want, you just never know what might happen. Which is good, right? 

With the protagonist in I Know You Remember the information at the beginning of the story is pretty sparse. We know Ruthie just lost her mother in a freak accident and that she’s moving to Alaska to live with her dad and stepmom. Back to the same town Ruthie used to live in with her mom and dad before they got divorced and Ruthie moved to Oregon and began building a life there, just her and her mom. So, it’s three years later and Ruthie feels pretty alone, with just her memories of what living in Alaska was like before her parents’ divorce. 

One thing that she’s hoping she can count on is her friend Zahra, who she has tried to stay in touch with over the years and who still lives in Alaska. It seems like most of the memories Ruthie has of her friendship with Zahra are whimsical and full of stories they made up together to escape their drab lives in Anchorage. Even though they’re both in high school now, Ruthie is hoping they can continue to build on that friendship so she doesn’t feel so alone. But Zahra either doesn’t seem to want anything to do with Ruthie, or she’s forgotten about her. Then Ruthie is hit with the reality of what’s going on–Zahra is missing. 

Things go from zero to one hundred pretty fast. All of a sudden Ruthie is caught up in something much bigger than she ever imagined, and there seems to be much more going on in Zahra’s life than when Ruthie left town. What I thought was going to be a simple love story or just a fun read turned out to be a little more mysterious and a lot more thrilling and left me wanting to read more from Jennifer Donaldson right away!

Review of an Advance Reader’s Copy from the publisher.

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  5 religious exclamations; 1 mild obscenity; 2 religious profanities; 5 derogatory names; 11 scatological words; 2 anatomical terms; 1 offensive hand gesture; 23 F-Word derivatives. 

Violence/Gore:  A fight is mentioned between high schoolers; a minor is reported missing; a mention of various violent acts occurring in nearby areas (murders, gun violence, missing people); a woman is reported to have fallen on a hike and died; a teen boy is accused of having something to do with a teen girl going missing after they are observed fighting; a teen trespasses on private property and is threatened by a man with a gun; a report is made of a bear attacking and mauling a person with no detail; a minor reports that their parents abuse them physically; a boy is accused of torturing a dog; a boy is mentioned to have been lost in some woods on an island and died from exposure to weather; a bear is mentioned to be feeding on a moose and then follow teens in one brief scene; a body is reported to have been found while searching for another missing person; abuse and discipline is mentioned to occur in an evangelical church; minors are reported to have killed a girl with a hammer and then cover up the death in a brief scene; a teen hits a woman with a fire poker in an attempt to help her friend who she thinks is in danger inside the woman’s house; a teen is found locked in the closet of her grandmother’s house; a woman threatens people with a gun; two minors get into a fight and threaten each other; blood at a death scene is mentioned in one brief scene with some detail on amount of blood and blood spatter; a teen is implied to have been involved in several deaths.

Sex/Nudity:  A teen boy and girl are in a hot tub and sit close to each other and kiss; a girl mentions her friends breasts; a teen is implied to be cheating in her serious dating relationship; sex is referred to as “hooking up”; a woman refers to “selling herself” for drugs; a boy and girl kiss; sex is implied between minors with no detail; a teen boy and girl kiss and sleep in the same bed, no sex is implied.

Mature Subject Matter:

Death of a parent; depression; homelessness; missing persons; murder; abuse.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

An adult is mentioned to be in rehab and AA; a woman is mentioned to be in recovery from a meth addiction; underage drinking occurs at a party; cigarettes are smoked by adults; a teen is mentioned to be caught with weed; a teen is described to be drunk at a party; underage drinking occurs at a few different parties, vodka, tequila, and wine are mentioned to be served.

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

Books and reading have always been an important part of my life. When I was very young, my grandma was the library director at our local public library. Years later, after she had retired, I became a librarian at the same library and worked there for several years before taking a part-time job at a local coffee shop, which gives me more time to do what I love, to read and to review books! A few of my favorite authors are Aimee Bender, Diane Chamberlain, and Curtis Sittenfeld however, I will read almost any book I come across! In my spare time you can find me reading (of course), volunteering at a wildlife animal rehab, or hanging out with my two house rabbits.