The Memory Thief by Leonie Agnew
Leonie Agnew’s new book The Memory Thief feels both new and at the same time comfortingly familiar in its premise. The young adult fiction novel follows the protagonist, Seth, through his nocturnal capers armed with the knowledge of two important facts: 1. He is a troll who solidifies into a concrete statue within the gated parameters of a public garden; and 2. He is hungry, and his main source of sustenance is the memories of those whom he manages to snatch brief conversations with.
That makes for a fairly interesting lifestyle. All things considered, it seems like Seth has a fairly standard type of existence, for a troll - until he meets Stella. Her past is not like others; she doesn’t like or want the memories that she holds. For Seth, also, there is something different about her. His aim is not to eat those memories, but to get to know her.
As the text unfolds we find out what happens when Seth takes on more than he bargains for in eating some of Stella’s bad memories and notices strange and significant changes in both himself, and in Stella. Plus, there is Celeste, the older troll in the garden who is watching, and waiting for something to happen - but what?
The style of Agnew’s novel is fast paced and well balanced. Her page-turning narrative takes a complex topic and presents it with grace and efficacy. The characters are well developed and provide humour in places but also deep sadness for the plight of the two young people caught in their own, albeit very different, worlds.
It’s a text that sticks with you after reading it. In taking the fantastical world and integrating it so seamlessly into the material, Agnew’s The Memory Thief solidifies her position as a writer of note in New Zealand.
Reviewer: Chris Reed