Book Review: The Forgetting Machine by Pete Hautman
People all over Flinkwater are losing their memories—and it’s up to Ginger to figure out what’s going on—in this sequel to the “quirky, dryly funny” (Booklist) The Flinkwater Factor from National Book Award–winning author Pete Hautman.
Absentmindedness in Flinkwater, a town overflowing with eccentric scientists and engineers, is nothing new. Recently, however, the number of confused, forgetful citizens has been increasing, and no one seems to know why. Ginger Crump figures it’s none of her business. She has her own problems. Like the strange cat that’s been following her around—a cat that seems to be able to read. And the report for school due Monday. And the fact that every digital book in Flinkwater has been vandalized by a fanatical censor, forcing Ginger to the embarrassingly retro alternative of reading books printed on dead trees.
But when Ginger’s true love and future husband Billy Bates completely forgets who she is, things suddenly get serious, and Ginger swings into action.
I love Pete Hautman’s books. I love that I never know what to expect next from him. Also, did you know that The Big Crunch is one of my all-time favorite books? Well, now you know—and now you should go read it. But anyway. The first thing you should know is that this book is a sequel, but it can be read on its own and still make sense. Multiple references are made to the first book, but you get enough details to sort of know what happened. That being said, you should read book one/direct your readers to book one if possible.
In The Forgetting Machine, the story really takes off once Ginger goes to the library (of course it does—everything interesting happens at libraries). Ginger Crump is 14 and really disdains “retro” paper books. They’re primitive and don’t have cool features, like enlarging fonts or being able to search. She’s forced to look at antique dead-tree books to do some research for school. While there, she irritates the librarian, sees a cat who appears to be reading a book, and overhears the local pastor having a fit about a book full of “wicked, sacrilegious filth.” The book’s crime? Being filled with talking animals. The book? Charlotte’s Web. Mr. Tisk (the pastor’s fantastic name) would like to protect all children from its wickedness. So Ginger has an interesting time at the library, even if she doesn’t find what she’s looking for for her report.
Meanwhile, something weird is happening in town. Her Iowa town is home to ACPOD, the world’s largest manufacturer of Articulated Computerized Peripheral Devices. Robots. Citizens of Flinkwater are experiencing bouts of forgetfulness. Ginger’s dad, a scientist, knows a coworker is working on a memorization technique—only he can’t remember what it is. People are acting goofy, but it’s only once Ginger’s true love, Billy, is affected that she really gets interested. Billy and Ginger set out to get to the bottom of what’s going on, finding more than they bargained for as they investigate various suspicious townspeople. To make things more interesting, there’s also the mystery of who hacked into the ebook copies of Charlotte’s Web and turned all of the talking animals into children. Ginger feels certain it’s Mr. Tisk, but things in Flinkwater are always more complicated than they seem.
This is a great pick for a wide audience of readers. There’s constant action, lots of mystery, dry humor, and clever characters. There are wacky devices, nefarious intentions, weird science, and even talking animals. It’s also a nice mix of pretty realistic-feeling but with lots of science fiction (see: the use of technology). Ginger is bold (if sometimes a bit foolish) and determined in her quest to figure out just what the heck is going on in her town. Funny, smart, and sure to generate conversations about just how far we’d be willing to go with technology in our pursuit of information.
Review copy courtesy of the author
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date: 09/20/2016
Series: Flinkwater Chronicles Series
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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