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When A Memory Goes Missing

Sarah Fine’s Uncanny features unreliable narrators, a murder mystery, and a sexy android.

When A Memory Goes Missing

BOOK REPORT for Uncanny by Sarah Fine

Cover Story: Big Face
BFF Charm: Caution
Swoonworthy Scale: 3
Talky Talk: Investigative
Bonus Factor: Future Tech
Anti-Bonus Factor: Treatment of Mental Illness
Relationship Status: See You in the Halls

Trigger Warning: Uncanny features discussion and chilling descriptions of childhood physical abuse that might be triggering for some readers.

Cover Story: Big Face

Well, old friend, it’s been a while. Glad to see you’re still around, if only for nostalgia’s sake. I also dig what you’re doing with your eyes. Is that a reflection of a person I see?

The Deal:

Hannah is the perfect daughter. She opens her home to her new stepmother and step-sister, Cora, making them feel like part of the family. She tries to get Cora to hang out with her friends, tries to support her hobbies, tries to help Cora have a better life after a traumatic childhood.

Cora is the troubled one. Her past abuses have made her wary and cold. She’s prone to emotional outbursts and possibly even violence. Her memories aren’t always reliable. And Hannah’s efforts only seem to make things worse.

When Hannah dies, and Cora’s the only other person in house—a house in which all of the security measures have been turned off—what’s deemed as an accident is tinged with suspicion, particularly aimed in Cora’s direction.

BFF Charm: Caution

Being in Cora’s head for much of Uncanny shows that she can be a somewhat unreliable narrator. She’s not as bad as people might think, but there’s something about her that makes me wary. She deserves friends just as much as the next person, but I don’t think I’d be the right person for the job.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

Cora longs to be loved. So when Rafiq, the AI counselor* her stepfather brings in to help her with the aftermath of Hannah’s death, begins to get close, Cora leans in—hard. But their relationship always seemed to be more about the appeal of being shown affection than any actual attraction, aside from the fact that Rafiq is super physically attractive. And then [REDACTED] happens, and any true swoon that they might have had takes a nosedive.

*He’s a very advanced artificial intelligence.

Talky Talk: Investigative

Uncanny is split between Cora’s POV and the POV of a second individual who’s investigating Hannah’s death. Cora’s POV is that teenage girl who’s experienced something traumatic, both in her past and recently. She’s somewhat unreliable, as she can’t remember much of what happened the night Hannah died, and she’s also unwilling to think about her past abuse, even in the comfort of her own brain.

The other POV fleshes out the story, through transcriptions of events from Hannah’s life, captured on a device known as a Cerepin, and transcriptions from their house’s security recordings. While not as unreliable as Cora can be, it still feels like something’s missing from the chapters, particularly before we find out who’s POV it actually is.

Uncanny is a suspenseful read, and Fine pulls of most of the twists and turns of the novel well. And although I thought I had it all figured out by the end, she surprised me with one final twist that changed my feelings about everything that came before.

Bonus Factor: Future Tech

Uncanny is set in the same universe as Fine’s Beneath the Shine. Both books are set in a not-too-distant future in which cranial implants that record your whole life are commonplace, and androids—”cannys”—are members of society. I’m not entirely sure that I buy into the benefits of this future tech outweighing the disadvantages, but they certainly play large parts in the books and cause me to think about both the pros and cons. I appreciate being “forced” to think about these topics now, before they become reality and I actually have to use them. Because we all know how frequent it is that science fiction eventually becomes science fact.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Treatment of Mental Illness

Cora is obviously suffering, and it’s not explained whether she’s actually ever gotten help processing her childhood trauma, or if she’s just been written off as strange. It’s heartbreaking, and makes me feel like throttling her otherwise caring mother.

Relationship Status: See You in the Halls

I don’t see us hanging out after school or on the weekends, Book, but you definitely took me on a ride that I’m not sorry to have experienced. But I’m going to keep my distance, and I hope you don’t take offense. Like really hope. I value my life too much.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Skyscape, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Uncanny is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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