3 out of 4 stars
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"In life, there are no regrets, just missed memories." So begins Missed Memories, a supernatural thriller by Alan Baker. Alexandra (Alex) and her best friend Kate are about to start their senior year of high school. On Saturday night, they go to a party held by Jeremy, a new boy in town, who is good-looking and attracted to Alex. Showing her around his family home, Jeremy takes her to his bedroom, smokes marijuana with her, and then tries to rape her. She smashes a glass bottle in his face and leaves. The next day, Alex and her family are on back roads to a local water park when their van is hit by a stolen car being pursued by police. Alex sees the souls of her mum, dad, and six-year-old sister Bailey escorted from their wrecked van by an olive-skinned man in a three-piece suit and shiny black shoes. While she recovers in hospital, her friend Carl hears her say the name "Azrael" in the dead of night. He finds out online that Azrael is the angel of death...
Baker's prose is smooth and easy to read, definitely suited to a young adult audience around Alex's age. I read this book quickly, with plenty of mystery to keep me intrigued along the way. Given the extraordinary events that occur in Alex's life after the accident, it is difficult to work out what really happened to her and her family. Having the narrative told from Alex's point of view adds nicely to the confusion. The concept of reality in this book is somewhat fluid, which is great if you enjoy puzzling out a mystery, never really knowing where you stand until the end. I found myself guessing multiple potential twists which didn't end up happening.
Throughout the book, the plot moves forward nicely. There is plenty of internal conflict for Alex's character about what is really happening and what she should do, combined with the external conflict of the ongoing appearances of Azrael. Baker's foreshadowing of the fatal crash at the start of the book is sensitive and moving. The crash itself is sudden and powerful, and Alex's time in the hospital is especially interesting. During her recovery, some weird elements begin to intrude on the story. I like that this book has a regular, unremarkable beginning before the accident, then takes this sudden dark turn. There are some genuinely creepy moments between Alex and Azrael, some of which are absolutely frightening.
Missed Memories does contain more than ten typographical errors, but not a lot more. I found the tenth error by two-thirds of the way through the book, which is better than most books I have reviewed for Online Book Club. My only other gripe with this book is the formatting. The paragraph indentation in the copy I read is not pronounced enough, with new paragraphs starting only one character in from the left-hand margin. This makes it difficult to see the start of a new paragraph, especially if the previous one runs to the end of a line.
Overall, Missed Memories is a solid supernatural thriller for young adults. Aside from its minor errors and formatting, I found it a compelling and entertaining read, which I rate 3 out of 4 stars. With another edit, I would have no problem awarding it 4 stars. It does have some sexual content, so I would recommend it to young adults eighteen and over who enjoy supernatural thrillers, especially movies like The Butterfly Effect and Final Destination.
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