The Meme Plague, (Skyscape/Amazon Children’s Publishing, $16.99, Ages 13 and up) the third book in the Memento Nora series, by Angie Smibert, is reviewed by Ronna Mandel.
Here’s what the jacket flap says: In THE MEME PLAGUE, the final book of the Memento Nora series, Micah and his friends have each lost something—a parent, a relationship, a home, maybe even their own identities as they remembered them to be. But together, they can make sure some things are never forgotten. Election Day is coming, and Mayor Mignon is certain to be elected to Congress. It’s time to build a new electronic frontier (MemeNet), one that’s not controlled by the mayor and his cronies. It’s time to get out the vote and shake up the system. Will they succeed before it’s too late?
I decided to take my first dive into a dystopian world, one I usually don’t visit, and found it easy to lose myself in the futuristic east coast town of Hamilton where the main characters Nora, Micah, Winter, Velvet and Aiden live. Considering the controversy surrounding the NSA’s invasion of privacy, Smibert’s trilogy including her most recent, The Meme Plague, could not be more relevant.
It’s important to note that, to get my head around the dystopian society where most of the action occurs, I needed to read books one and two before I could attempt to follow book three. Smibert’s created a detailed world with wonderfully realized characters and a complex back story that would make it difficult for most readers to just pick up The Meme Plague without first finishing the others. Memento Nora (Book One) and The Forgetting Curve (Book Two) introduced and developed a time period not so far in the future in which government and business conspire to suppress free thought in individuals through mind controlling chips implanted in them. TFCs (Therapeutic Forgetting Clinics) are cropping up everywhere and savvy teens Nora and Micah, along with their friends, figure out that not only are their actual memories being whitewashed, but new, more government and corporation serving ones are replacing them! This concept intrigued me and hooked me in, especially the idea of technology’s role in implementing such an oppressive plan and how hacking can have its pros and its cons.
A MemeCast, a pirate broadcast to citizens who have avoided getting chipped or have been chipped but refuse to submit, serves to disperse details about where legitimate information can be found. This underground movement has grown by the time The Meme Plague take place, and efforts to brainwash Micah about his father’s past (did he really betray his country as everyone’s been led to believe) only make Micah and his friends more determined than ever to fight back and expose the wrongdoing.
One element of this series that I enjoyed was Smibert’s deft use of teen vernacular and how she imagined the kinds of words and expressions kids would use in a dystopian world. Kids just beginning to read YA novels will feel comfortable with the language, In fact some may even start using “glossy” (a popular word in the books) to describe things in their own lives! Another aspect that worked was how Smibert wove music throughout the story. Concerts play an important role in combating the control Hamilton’s mayor has over the citizens. The friendship between the characters was also a plus for me. There were romantic relationships both straight and gay which gave the series a realistic feel and the interactions between the characters also felt realistic, a quality that will keep teens reading once the idea of mind control has pulled them in. There is also a strong generational theme in the books that I like, with both parents and grandparents playing important roles.
The books are not long and read rather quickly making it a good idea to give all three when gift giving. I’m looking forward to what Smibert will publish next and want to thank her for writing the ideal introduction to a new, engaging genre I had, to date, avoided like the plague!