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Whitaker Wordsworth
Memory's Lens

Amnesia plagues Hanna, a first-year university student on a quiet New Jersey campus alarmed by the sudden disappearances of victims also suffering from amnesia. Her decaying relationship with Theo, a motorcycle riding student in New York City, may shed light on her amnesia, but he cannot explain why she only forgets about him. Theo one day brings her an ominous Japanese inscription to translate that may hold the key to much more than just her own amnesia, but she can’t quite remember why. Hanna ventures to discover the truth behind her amnesia, joining her friends in solving the mystery of the disappearances and plunging into the darkness where the truth lies.


Memory’s Lens: Liar is the debut installment in the Memory’s Lens series and takes the reader on a thrilling memory game of deceit and details woven into a textured narrative of moral and mortal peril. Through the dynamic perspectives of Hanna and Theo in their tumultuous relationship, this chilling novel dives into the corruptible interplay of memory, falsehood, and perception circling in on the question: what would you do with the power of amnesia?

Wordsworth’s debut sets a supernatural mystery on a New Jersey college campus as Hanna Popov, a student studying Japanese language and culture, begins to suspect that she’s suffering a highly selective amnesia—and that Theo, her boyfriend from high school, might have something to do with it. As Theo assures her that occasional lapses of memory are normal, readers discover (well before Hanna does) that Theo’s lying. In truth, he’s deliberately causing her to forget with the use of a magic Japanese dagger, a kaike. Even more troubling: he’s behind a rash of recent abductions of women who wake up in unfamiliar surroundings with no idea how they got there.

Wordsworth’s split-perspective storytelling quickly dispels the mystery of what’s happening to Hanna, though she doesn’t quite figure out that she needs to take decisive action until over halfway through the quite long book. But that imbues scenes between doting Hanna and cagy Theo with a queasy tension, and other mysteries keep Theo’s chapters lively: why is he targeting Hanna’s memories? Who is this Arthur person who seems to be instructing Theo in how to test the dagger’s capabilities? And what’s he doing with these women—and eventually a federal judge’s son, too—who awake with gaps in their memory? Meanwhile, rumors of a secret society called The Makers, possibly the creators of the kaike, haunt the narrative.

Scenes tend to run long, with lots of dialogue, and until the novel’s last third the pacing tends toward the leisurely. A tendency toward awkward descriptions during dialogue scenes hampers the opening chapters, though the prose tightens up as the novel progresses. Hanna’s aversion to swearing, drinking, and sex are interesting character traits that could benefit from more exploration, though other aspects of her life—her classes, her piano playing, the miserable challenge of collegiate group work—are engagingly detailed. The novel’s biggest surprise, before the cliffhanger ending: Wordsworth stirring empathy for Theo.

Takeaway: Dual-perspective thriller about a college student losing memories and the boyfriend behind it.

Comparable Titles: S.J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep, Alice LaPlante’s Turn of Mind.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B+
Marketing copy: A-