Author: Claire North
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Review By: Shana
I found this book engrossing almost immediately. Claire North has a knack for giving her characters depth and feeling and normalcy, while simultaneously providing them one isolating and inalienable oddity that makes them other and apart from the rest of humanity. The peculiarity of the protagonist of the book, the eponymous Hope, is that she is not memorable.
On first glance, this seems a minor thing—but this does not mean she is ordinary or has a common face or just isn't all that interesting. In North’s capable hands, it means that as she approached her 16th birthday, people who had known her all her life slowly began to forget her. Forgot she was in the room, forgot she was in the house, forgot she went to your school, and eventually, entirely forgot who she was. She would flit away from one's short term memory and never imprint on one's long term memory. Her mother and father forgot who she was.
And what seems a simple conceit—a main character who people can't remember—becomes a central pivot to explore loneliness and relationships and society and what it means to be human. If no one remembers you, you can't hold down a normal job or get regular care at a hospital, you can't date or make friends, you are forever an unknown quantity and unmoored to your surroundings. In response to this inability to attach to anyone, Hope becomes an accomplished thief (usually of jewels) and makes her way in the world, filling the spaces where human interaction would be with knowledge and trying to stay connected to sanity through discipline and professionalism.
North takes this epic plot twist, this woman who technology remembers (CCTV, online chats, etc.) but everyone else forgets, and adds in another character, albeit one that is purely technology. The book pairs Hope's daily life with a larger plot involving an app called Perfection. Perfection offers its namesake to users with points adding up for good choices, subtracted for bad, coupons and invitations to services and events that make you more perfect. Through this app, the author is able to explore many issues coming to a head in society (the intrusiveness of technology, the striving for impossible looks, the push to assimilate, the shallowness of thought, the annihilation of individuality, the trading of privacy for convenience).
The central story and action that develops throughout the book is triggered by Hope stealing the source code for the app, followed by the exploration of whether the app's algorithm for perfection is vile and destructive, what lengths another character will go to in order to destroy it, and whether the app (and treatments it suggests) could make Hope memorable.
In the end, the blend of ideas and characters, along with plenty of action and pathos, made the book difficult to put down. While the storyline with the Perfection app is not as interesting or as well rendered as the realities of Hope’s daily life and how her oddity impacted every other aspect of her life and psychology, it was still gripping. Highly recommended for people who like their heroines with a quirk, their technology with a grain of salt, and their morality in a gray area.