Book Review: “The Adventures of Sarah Ann Lewis and the Memory Thieves” by Joshua C. Carroll

Sarah LewisThis is listed as a children’s book, which is not something I’d normally read, but this bit of the description caught my eye: “rural sci-fi thriller full of spies, mad scientists, 1980s nostalgia, alternate dimensions, strange new friends, suspense, and mystery.”

Well, that sounded like something I would like. And I was not disappointed. Yes, the protagonist is indeed a kid–13 year-old Sarah Lewis–and the prose does avoid complicated structures and (for the most part) big words, but it’s a book anyone can enjoy. It doesn’t condescend to the reader in telling the story.

Sarah is living with her grandfather after her mother has died and her father has moved away to take a job in another country. She is lonely, and trying to acclimate to a new town and new school in rural Texas, when her curiosity leads her to exploring in the hills near her grandfather’s property.

Long story short, she stumbles into a web of ancient conspiracies, secret societies, aliens, talking animals, magic, and threats of cosmic annihilation from malevolent demonic entities. Imagine The Chronicles of Narnia crossed with The X-Files and maybe a bit of Dan Brown thrown in. It uses a number of the classic YA tropes–a child with no parents discovering her family’s secrets and having to reevaluate her place in the world. Sarah isn’t quite “the Chosen One,” thankfully, but she does turn out to be rather special for reasons which I won’t reveal here. Still, it was quite a fun read for me; and never became boring or predictable.

Before I read the book, I wondered whether it would be too childish for an adult to read. Having read the book, I wonder if it’s too adult-ish for a child to read. It’s touted as “clean,” meaning there’s no swearing or sex, but there is plenty of fighting, references to cancer and dying from it, and strong implications that the villains torture and ritualistically sacrifice people to appease an evil deity. Also, several characters die, including some rather sympathetic ones.

Of course, there are plenty of examples throughout children’s literature of things just as or more disturbing than that. (The classic fairy tales are pretty unsettling, when you think about them.) But everyone has their own ideas of what kids should and shouldn’t read, so it’s important to note that this book was darker than I expected. Not that I minded, and thinking back, I suspect my 10-12 year-old self wouldn’t have minded, either.

While the major conflict of the story is resolved, the book ends on a major cliffhanger to set up the sequel. A sequel which, as far as I can tell, has not been published yet. Certainly, I am eager to see how this story develops–there is a lot of potential in the world that the author has created.

12 Comments

  1. I remember watching Matt Dillon shoot and kill a man every Sunday night every week. Kids have been exposed to violence all through history. Remember Poe was thought appropriate for 7th grade. It sounds like a good book.

    1. It is a good tale. And that’s a good point, Poe’s stories are pretty unsettling. Although I read some Poe as a kid and just found it boring; it wasn’t until I grew up that I appreciated him.

  2. These days YA literature does walk a very fine line. Of course since it’s covering from 10 to 16 years olds that’s when one heck of a spurt in development happens so what is classed as YA itself covers a wide number of variations. As you say, if the books are shorn explicit sex and recognised swearing they get to be classified as YA.
    Though throughout the history of reading what has qualified as YA has been variable….Dickens? I mean for kids??.

      1. Yes, many of the ‘boys adventure’ stories from the British fiction involved a clean shaven noble fellow in some indeterminate 30 something age.
        If he was not fighting, nobly in WWII or WWI he was out there in the British Empire killing off those native who were not grateful to have British rule (In the books or comics most of the natives were very grateful, it was only a few evil malcontents who were the problem; if the writer was of a ‘liberal’ frame of mind, the British hero might be aided by a noble, loyal native, or possible a mischievous willy rogue, who actually when the chips were could be depended upon).
        Conflict was often resolved by a good honest, clean blow to the jaw.
        The British hero only used guns against Germans (or Japanese if in WWII…except on one occasion where for some inexplicable reason where a British pilot and his Japanese foe landed their aircraft in a jungle clearing and engaged in a fist fight ).
        Trouble is, there are still a lot of folk who still have that mentality, mind you their reading skills are somewhat minimal.

  3. Those who want to censor always claim its to protect the children. Really with what the kids are getting on their computers and cell phones?

  4. Another fun, to-the-point review! 🙂
    My interest was already piqued reading your opening paragraph then I got to the ‘Chronicles of Narnia crossed with The X-Files’ bit – sold!

  5. This does sound like an interesting book! Adding it to my TBR.

    Eventually, I’ll find time to start reviewing the books you’ve recommended. I plan to link back to your reviews when I blog my reviews of them. 🙂

  6. Berthold, I’ve republished Fan Plan. I’m willing to send you a copy of the paperback or a code for a free e-book. Let me know if you’re interested.

    1. I’d be delighted! The ebook code would be best. I think you have it already, but just in case my email is bertholdgambrel at gmail dot com Thanks!

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