(Don’t You) Forget About Me is a beautiful and lyrical story set in present day America, in a small town hidden behind a mountain. Although the blurb makes this out to be yet another paranormal teen urban fantasy, in reality this is much more of a magical tale in the vein of Tuck Everlasting. Author Quinn deftly juxtaposes hard with soft, magic with realism, in a riveting plot told from a first person POV: a younger sister to her missing older sibling.
Story: Skyler Gardner lives in Gardnerville, a quaint small town accessible only through a mountain pass. The town is unique though: people don’t die from illnesses but also have talents; those talents often explode into destructive tendencies every four years. Skyler can read secrets from others and drugs herself to keep the ability from ruining her life. But change is coming to Gardnerville – and the status quo will be irrevocably changed when it does.
Our protagonist, Skyler, tells the story as if recorded on cassette tapes – tapes of her mother’s from when she was a child in the 1980s that she tapes over. As such, the chapter titles are all songs from the 1980s (which probably won’t bother a YA audience who has never heard them but can be jarring for anyone who lived through the 1980s since they don’t have anything to do with the story). The plot is almost an ode to Sky’s missing sister, Piper, with a lot of reflection and emotion contained within.
The story starts very small, expands greatly, and then contracts at the end, giving us twists, mysteries, and a lot of depth in the process. At its heart, the story is about balance – and how what seems like a gift can also be a curse at the same time. That theme is repeated quite often with surprising results.
Characters are very fleshed out, full of foibles and personality and distinct triats. From Sky’s hopelessness to her sister’s mood swings, as told in flashbacks. Though the POV is always Sky’s, I was quite impressed with how well the story was told (and glad that it was always only Sky’s and not both sisters combined). As well, the characters’ unique talents do not overwhelm or play a large part in the story – it’s about the emotions not the talents. This isn’t an X-men rip off.
(Don’t You) Forget About Me isn’t a book that gives easy answers – quite a lot is implied or conveyed through emotion and always enough is given to intrigue but never overtell. Some clues will be obvious and others very subtle; readers may guess some of the twists but definitely not all of them. In the end, enough is explained for a satisfying end to the story but not so much that readers don’t have things to consider afterwards.
I greatly enjoyed this bit of magic realism. At times bleak, somewhat hopeless, it’s all about the mystery of the town and Skyler figuring out the riddle of her own life.
Reviewed from an ARC.