The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner

28220960Publication: September 6th 2016

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Genres: YA, Contemporary, Historical

Format: eARC Source: Publisher via Netgalley

My Rating: 4 Stars

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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.


As with all stories that regard September 11, 2001, I automatically expect to tear up or, at the very least, feel some sympathy. The Memory of Things does a great job on making the reader sympathize with the characters. This story follows Kyle in the days after 9/11, and we get to feel his emotions as he tries to move forward. I really like the family focal points that the author created. It felt very realistic and not all what I was expecting. And while I wasn’t as blown away by this story, I still really enjoyed reading it. 

What I Liked

Kyle- his character showed growth throughout the story. At the start, he’s very much all over the place emotionally; which is understandable. I loved being inside his head and just thinking about his worries made me want to reach inside and give him a hug. I think the relationship with his father wasn’t exactly “hero-worship”, but as the story grew, the dynamic progressed. I really love the connection between Kyle and his disabled uncle, Matt. Taking care of someone is very difficult, especially for someone so young. The bond that those two had is what made the dialogue between them so great and it gave you hope. That may be my favorite part of the story. As Kyle worried about his loved ones and whether they are dead or alive, the author does good on the portrayal of emotions. Again, it was all very real to me, so I appreciate those parts of the story.

A girl with wings- This aspect of the story is very interesting. Kyle first thinks he sees a bird, but then realizes that it’s a girl with wings. He takes her home with him, to care for her. Her thoughts are fragmented into verse format. Now, I usually have a hard time with this when I just really want to know what is going on. I think her character added depth to the story, and it gives the reader another POV. I like that they are strangers in their torn up world. She has no memory but her story is as equally emotional as Kyle’s.  

What I Didn’t Like

I wouldn’t say that there’s something I disliked. It’s just that the story is short and, as complicated as the situation is, it’s to the point. In the beginning, I put it down for about a week. That was partly due to me being caught up in another book. I will say that I thought that I’d be a sobbing mess by the end, but that wasn’t the case. I know that not all stories involving this tragedy will make you weep, but I was really hoping to do the ugly cry. Yes, I actually wanted to cry. 

Overall, this is a great story about moving on after traumatic events. I like how the author delivered messages of love, friendship and hope. I recommend this to readers who love contemporary and historical YA.




17 thoughts on “The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner

  1. Great review! I don’t think I’ve really read any 9/11 books — I can be a wimp and stay away from super intense books so that’s probably why. This one sounds pretty good, though!


  2. Totally agree with you here! My problem with it was almost undefinable- I just didn’t FEEL as much as I’d expected to- and maybe that’s on me, but I felt like especially with the heavy topics and such, I would? But I agree, Kyle was a great character! And I 100% agree about Uncle Matt and Kyle’s relationship, it was my favorite part too! Great review 😀


  3. The last book I read associated with 9/11 had me ugly crying so I can see why you thought that would happen here. Neat that the characters felt right for the time and setting and that he grows stronger.
    I’ll have to watch out for this one. Thanks, Lekeisha!


  4. This one sounds like a good novel that does the job of portraying someone’s thoughts ans feelings after 9/11 and when they need to move on and gather themselves again. And the fictionalised side to things with the angel-ish character is different and sounds good. I like the verse style for her point of view so it’s also adding something different to the story. It just doesn’t sound amazing, but then again, not every novel needs to be.


    • Oh and about the buddy read, I got sent it without knowing it was the sequel to The Unusual School for Girls. I now bought that one, but I have to take the time to read it first. So go ahead and read Exile for Dreamers without me!


  5. Now that you’ve mentioned it, I don’t think I’ve ever read any books about 9/11.I would imagine it would be a heartrending account though. You’ve certainly piqued my interest. Lovely review, Lekeisha.


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