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Escape from Memory

Escape from Memory

4.4 97
by Margaret Peterson Haddix

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While playing around with hypnotism at a party, Kira remembers fleeing a war-torn country with her mother, speaking a language she can't identify. A few days later her mother disappears, and a woman who calls herself Kira's aunt Memory takes Kira to Crythe, a country that doesn't officially exist, in order to rescue her -- or so she says. Kira soon learns that Aunt


While playing around with hypnotism at a party, Kira remembers fleeing a war-torn country with her mother, speaking a language she can't identify. A few days later her mother disappears, and a woman who calls herself Kira's aunt Memory takes Kira to Crythe, a country that doesn't officially exist, in order to rescue her -- or so she says. Kira soon learns that Aunt Memory is not what she seems, and that she and her mother are both in terrible danger. There are memories locked in her mnd that could get them killed -- but those memories are the only thing that might save them.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When 15-year-old Kira's friends hypnotize her, she remembers a "Mama" who is not the woman she knows as her mother speaking a language that's not English. Her mother, Sophia, won't answer her questions, and shortly afterward, a stranger calling herself Aunt Memory appears, telling Kira that Sophia has been kidnapped and that Kira must go to Crythe, her true homeland, to save her. This is the promising start to Haddix's (Turnabout) science fiction novel; unfortunately, her premise gets muddled amid confusing details. Once in Crythe, the alleged Aunt Memory tells Kira about native culture and history; after the Chernobyl meltdown, she says, the village was relocated to California (Kira, raised in Ohio, had believed she was born in California). War broke out, and Kira's birth parents were executed. Haddix steadily infuses creative ideas: Crythe is a memory-obsessed culture where children learn from an honorary "Aunt Memory" to record every detail. Kira's birth parents, both geniuses, had built "a system to replicate memory on a computer. But it was human memory they could copy, not digital." Kira, apparently, has her parents' memories embedded within her, and these now put her in danger. Fans of the author's Shadow Children series can count on an abundance of twists and cliffhangers, but ultimately readers may be frustrated by the plot's vagueness, especially around the state of current Crythe. Additionally, the book's villain is too much of a caricature to be truly scary. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Haddix has another surefire hit in this riveting, philosophically provoking tale of an ordinary small-town American girl who lets her best friend hypnotize her, as a joke, at one of their weekly sleepovers: under hypnosis, Kira reveals fragments of memory that lead her to the inescapable conclusion that she and the woman she has always thought was her mother have escaped from a bizarre past, as refugees from a lost country whose inhabitants are trained from birth to forget nothing, nothing at all. Short, suspenseful chapters show Kira and Lynne beginning to unravel the secrets of Kira's distant, silent mom, until the girls are kidnapped by Kira's menacing "Aunt Memory" and taken to Kira's quasi-medieval native country of Crithe (transplanted, after Chernobyl, to isolated mountains of California), where both girls are threatened with death if Kira cannot produce secrets she doesn't even realize she has the means of knowing. Haddix once again takes readers on a wild ride replete with cliff-hanging climaxes and courageous choices on the part of her heroine, along the way raising deep and fascinating questions about the nature of memory: what is worth remembering, and what is worth forgetting? How much of our identity is constituted by what we remember, and how much by what we allow ourselves to forget? 2003, Simon & Schuster, Ages 12 up.
— Claudia Mills
When people call a book "tight," this novel is what they're talking about. It has it all: suspense, laughter, tears, twists, action, and thrills. I can only read certain kinds of books because I am very picky, and this book was one of the best I've ever read. It was a blast. I would recommend it to anyone who has ever dreamed of the unbelievable happening. I give it a 4Q/5P. VOYA Codes: 3Q 4P M J S (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, Simon & Schuster, 224p,
— Lindsay Lutes, Teen Reviewer
Haddix (author of Turnabout, Just Ella, and Takeoffs and Landings) writes a thriller about a teenager living in a small town in the Midwest who is hypnotized by her friends as a party entertainment only to uncover odd facts about her past buried in her memory. For starters, in her hypnotic trance, Kira speaks a foreign language. She decides to pursue these clues to find out more about where she came from; her birth certificate, photos, parents' identity papers, anything. Kira lives alone with a woman she knows as her mother, a woman who cares for Kira. She supports them by working in the public library, but she has never revealed details of their family or their past to Kira. Their quiet existence is shattered when a woman calling herself Aunt Memory shows up and kidnaps Kira, flying her across the country to a place settled by their countrymen, a place called Crythe. Fortunately for Kira, her best friend Lynne is a stowaway on the plane and is there to help Kira understand what has happened. Also, the woman who Kira knows as her mom is there. Kira is a special person, the daughter of two brilliant Crythians, who, knowing they would die, stored important data in Kira's memory, which could only be recovered through hypnosis. The plot gets wilder and wilder, and cannot be summarized easily, but as you can imagine, there is a happy ending. Haddix writes well and YAs who like suspenseful stories that are akin to science fiction will enjoy this Escape. KLIATT Codes: JS; Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2003, Simon & Schuster, 218p.,
— Claire Rosser
School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-At a sleepover, Kira, 15, agrees to let her friends hypnotize her for the fun of it. Instead of the expected revelation of a secret crush, her friends hear a child's buried memory of fleeing from danger with her mother and speaking in a language none of them understands. Kira's assumptions about her life in their small Ohio town are challenged, and her reticent, eccentric mother is frightened rather than reassuring when confronted with her daughter's questions. Then she disappears, and a woman shows up claiming to be Kira's benevolent Aunt Memory from a community called Crythe, where memories are valued above all else. Aunt Memory claims that the woman Kira thinks of as her mother is being held hostage and that only Kira can save her. Thus ensues a race across the continent involving Crythian political intrigue, deception, kidnapping, and blackmail. Of course, nothing is as it seems, and there are enough plot twists to satisfy Haddix's loyal readers. The plot-driven narrative moves at such a brisk pace that only by the end of the story do readers have time to ponder the unresolved questions concerning the power and role of memory in our lives.-Farida S. Dowler, formerly at Bellevue Regional Library, WA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A thrill ride ensues when an all-American teen discovers her mysterious origins. Goofing around with hypnosis at a slumber party, Kira unearths buried memories of violent escape that don't fit in her Ohio childhood. For reassurance, she turns to her mother-who, now that she thinks of it, seems oddly foreign-and is brusquely rebuffed. Further investigations are interrupted when Kira's mother vanishes, and Kira is carried off by a mysterious stranger who claims to be rescuing Kira's kidnapped mom. Somehow, the answer to Kira's buried memories lies with this stranger and a mysterious land called Crythe, where memory is more important than happiness. The true identities of both Kira and her mother are concealed by layers of lost memory that hide secrets for which many have died. Greed, family love, and remnants of Cold War politics combine into a startling and intricate thriller. Some odd plot inconsistencies, but an exciting adventure, climaxing in a tense armed standoff. Well worth it. (Science fiction. 12-16)

Product Details

Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
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5.62(w) x 8.08(h) x 0.72(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I woke up.

"See?" I said as I opened my eyes. "Wasn't that stupid?"

I blinked a few times, so my eyes could readjust to the dim light in the Robertsons' family room.

"So what great buried memory did I come up with?" I asked. "The trauma of second-grade math? I told you it wasn't worth hypnotizing me. My life has been too — " I stopped without saying "dull," because I suddenly realized that all three of my closest friends were staring at me. Their faces, starting with Lynne's thin, dramatic one and ending with Courtney's heavyset, normally placid one, all held identical expressions: eyes wide, eyebrows raised, mouths agape.

"What?" I said. "What'd I say?"

Some thread of memory tickled my brain, then it was gone. Everything around me was too ordinary and familiar: our sleeping bags spread out on the Berber carpet, the brightly colored bags of Fritos and M&M's we'd been eating before we decided to experiment with hypnosis. It was Friday night, and we were having a sleepover at Lynne's house. That's what we did every Friday night. It didn't fit with the wisp of fear I still felt, without knowing why.

"You never told us," Lynne said slowly, "that you and your mother came here to escape danger."

She sounded pleased and intrigued, as if I had presented her with a fascinating physics question. Lynne was the only person in Willistown history who'd ever taken physics as a freshman — or, as Andrea liked to remind her, who'd ever wanted to.

"Or that you had a nursery when you were a baby," Courtney said. She emphasized the word "nursery" as though it were something only movie stars and royalty had for their children. Certainly no one in Willistown did.

"Or that you called your mother 'Mama,'" Andrea added.

"Don't all little kids call their mothers 'Mama'? Before they can say 'Mommy'?" I said defensively, though I didn't really know. I was an only child. My friends were the ones with younger brothers and sisters and cousins and — in Andrea's case — even nieces and nephews. They all had family coming out their ears.

All I had was Mom.

"But you said it with an accent," Lynne said. "And those other words — Sazahlya? Molya ste eha dostahna?" She pronounced the words carefully, but her flat Ohio vowels sounded all wrong. "What do they mean?"

"Sazahlya's like 'Hush, hush, it's all right, everything's okay.' People say it to babies," I answered without thinking.

My friends gave me their bug-eyed, drop-jawed stares again.

"Not around here, they don't," Lynne said cautiously. "What language is that?"

"I don't know," I admitted.

"Then how do you know what it means?"

"I don't know," I said again. I squirmed a little. The Robertsons' family room, where I'd probably spent half my life, suddenly seemed strange and uncomfortable.

"Then what's that other phrase mean? Molya ste eha dostahna?" Lynne asked. She narrowed her eyes, the way she did when a teacher actually managed to find a homework question that was hard enough for her. Courtney and Andrea watched in silence, willing, as usual, to let Lynne speak for them.

Usually I would have been letting her speak for me, too. But now I was trying to shut out the sound of her voice, to hear Molya ste eha dostahna the way someone — Mom? — had said it in my memory. I shivered, remembering the cold wind on my face. Remembering hiding my face in my mother's coat.

But that was all I could remember.

I was trying too hard.

"Why does it matter?" I asked. "I probably just read it somewhere. Or heard it on TV. Maybe what you say under hypnosis is like dreaming. Just nonsense."

"But you made it sound so real," Andrea said. It had been her idea to try hypnosis, just because she hadn't liked the video we'd all picked out. I didn't know why I had to be the featured entertainment instead.

I got another flash of memory — the feel of my chubby toddler arms around my mother's neck.

Mom and I did not hug each other.

I sighed. "Tell me everything I said," I asked reluctantly. I resisted the urge to pull my legs toward my body and clutch them with my arms, to huddle like a terrified child.

Why was I scared if it was all just a crazy story I'd made up?

Defiantly, I stretched my legs out and leaned back on my arms — the typical teenager sprawl. A triumph of body language. My fear ebbed. I refused to treat this seriously.

Lynne was already telling my story, word for word, she claimed. Then, of course, she had to analyze it.

"Well, it's pretty clear to me," she said. "You're obviously a refugee from some war-torn country. Your mother must have smuggled you across some border....You moved here when you were two, right?"

"Yeah, from California," I said, rolling my eyes. "No wars there."

"That's what your mother says," Lynne countered. "Hey, maybe you're illegal immigrants." Her face brightened, as if she liked that possibility. "Your mother's one clever woman. Who'd look for illegal immigrants in Willistown, Ohio?"

"Every single employer in town," Andrea said, sounding pleased at outsmarting Lynne for once. "You have to show proof of citizenship when you get a job." She was the only one of us so far who had attempted that feat. She was going to be lifeguarding at the town swimming pool as soon as it opened in the summer.

My mother had worked at the town library for the past thirteen years. Maybe thirteen years ago people didn't have to prove their citizenship.

I didn't share this obvious gap in logic with my friends.

Lynne had already moved on to the next puzzle.

"But where are you really from?" She squinted at me, as if trying to read some hidden map on my face. "Let's see, thirteen years ago there were battles in Eastern Europe and the old Soviet Union. The Irish-English squabbles were relatively calm" — trust Lynne to carry around a social studies time line in her head — "and there's almost always some conflict in the Middle East and Central America and parts of Africa."

"Do I look like I'm from the Middle East? Or Central America? Or Africa?" I asked.

"There are all sorts of people living in all of those places," Lynne retorted. "In fact, that might have been why you had to leave, because the indigenous people threw out the imperialist invaders."

Great. Now I was an imperialist invader.

"You do look kind of different," Courtney offered. "No offense."

I'd been afraid someone would say that. I blushed, knowing that, even with the extra color, my skin was still paler than my friends'. My hair was dark and cut the same way as theirs — longish and pulled back in ponytails or tucked behind my ears most of the time. But in the right light my hair had an almost bluish cast to it. And my eyes were just as dark and ever-so-slightly slanted. Not enough to look Asian. Just enough to look...different.

"Then there's your name," Lynne said thoughtfully. "Kira. Kira, Kira, Kira — Slavic, maybe? Russian?"

"That doesn't prove anything," I protested. "Look at, uh, Natasha Jones. Natasha's a Russian name too. Do you think she's an illegal immigrant? A refugee?"

Natasha Jones was a year ahead of us at school and served as the county Beef Queen. She had blond hair and blue eyes, and Lynne had joked once that she looked corn-fed, just like the cattle she promoted. Natasha was Willistown, through and through.

Wasn't I, too?

Andrea reached for a handful of Fritos, as casually as if we were discussing some ridiculous soap opera, not my life.

"You guys are being way too hard on Kira," she said. "You don't have to make her into a foreigner or something." I almost forgave her for the Fritos. Then she went on. "I know what must have happened. Kira's dad must have been an alcoholic or a drug addict or something, and he was always beating up Kira's mom, so she ran out on him. Disappeared without a trace. Then she hid in Willistown, because he would never look here. I saw a TV movie about that once. This woman changed her whole identity and her kid's — your name probably isn't even Kira at all."

Andrea was looking straight at me. I stared straight back. I hoped she thought I was struck speechless by the craziness of her explanation. I hoped she and Lynne and Courtney couldn't tell that if I so much as breathed, I was going to cry.

"Kira's dad is dead," Courtney said. "Isn't he?"

Now she was looking at me too, appealingly.

"Of course that's what Kira's mom would say, to cover up," Andrea said.

I wanted so badly to scream, Stop it! This isn't a joke! But I couldn't find my voice.

And didn't I want this to be a joke? If it was a joke, it wasn't real.

Lynne's calm, rational voice came as a relief.

"There are lots of things wrong with your explanation," Lynne challenged Andrea. "First, Kira mentioned cobblestone streets and alleys. That doesn't sound like California, where she's supposedly from."

Andrea shrugged.

"It's a big state. I'm sure there's a cobblestone somewhere out there. Anyhow, if you were running away, wouldn't you lie about the place you were running away from?"

Lynne ignored the question. "Two, there's the foreign language Kira was speaking...."

"It's probably just Spanish, and we didn't recognize it. Lots of people speak Spanish in California."

Lynne could have pointed out that all four of us were taking Spanish in school. But we knew Mr. Sutherland, our teacher, had been hired more for his basketball coaching skills than his perfect Spanish accent. He probably wouldn't even recognize real Spanish himself.

Lynne moved on to her next point.

"Three, what about the 'thunder and lightning' that was probably gunfire and bombs?" she asked.

"That doesn't have to be war," Andrea said sarcastically. "Maybe Kira's dad was chasing Kira and her mom and shooting at them."

Lynne was clearly losing the argument, but she didn't act like it.

"And third, and most important," she said, "can you honestly picture Kira's mom as an abused woman?"

I could see Andrea struggling with that one.

"Maybe she's changed?" she offered halfheartedly.

Lynne grinned triumphantly.

"Gotcha!" she declared. She turned to me. "So what are you going to do about this, Kira?"

"Do?" I whispered, the best I could do. I tried to remember how to make my voice sound normal, how to make my face look normal. "Why do I have to do anything?"

"Aren't you going to talk to your mom and find out the truth?"

My friends had met my mother, plenty of times. They knew she didn't drive her car, wouldn't touch a computer, wouldn't allow a TV in our apartment. But they'd never really talked to her beyond, "Hello, Mrs. Landon. Is Kira there?" They still seemed to believe that she was like Lynne's mom, who'd given Lynne the menstruation talk a full month before the school nurse brought it up. Or Andrea's mom, who kept better track of who was dating whom at Willistown High School than Andrea did. Or Courtney's mom, who shared dieting tips and hot fudge sundae splurges with her daughter on a regular basis. My friends actually thought my mother was someone you could talk to. Someone you could ask a question.

I forced my hand to reach into the bag of M&M's. I placed three pieces of chocolate on my tongue. I chewed. I swallowed.

"Okay, sure," I said, proud of how steady I managed to keep my voice. "I'll ask."

That wasn't good enough for Lynne.

"But if she tells you none of it's true, will you believe her?"

"Yeah," I said. "My mom doesn't have enough imagination to lie."

None of my friends disagreed.

Copyright © Margaret Peterson Haddix

Meet the Author

Margaret Peterson Haddix is the author of many critically and popularly acclaimed YA and middle grade novels, including the Children of Exile series, The Missing series, the Under Their Skin series, and the Shadow Children series. A graduate of Miami University (of Ohio), she worked for several years as a reporter for The Indianapolis News. She also taught at the Danville (Illinois) Area Community College. She lives with her family in Columbus, Ohio. Visit her at HaddixBooks.com.

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Escape from Memory 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 97 reviews.
cascading-tears More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be incredibly edgy, in a good kind of way. I recommend this to all readers. You'll be totally engulfed, and never forget the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the best Haddix book i have ever read!! It is so impossible to put down! I read it in one night!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is awesome! If you haven't read it you definatly need to.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is so awesome i couldn't put it down
soccerchic7 More than 1 year ago
Haddix haas done it again, i highly recommend this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing. It can only be called haunting. If you haven't bought it yet I order you to buy it.
Julia14 More than 1 year ago
This book was perfect! It was so shocking, and it kept me tense almost the whole time I was reading it, every page of the book had something that was just fascinating. This is my FAVORITE margaret haddix book, so many things happen, Oh my gosh I love this book!! :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My teacher had to tell me to put it down during class it was so good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another jaw dropping,heart stopping,o my gosh i cant believe that happend book!!! Of course u know its by Haddix!!!!! This book was great!!!! You need to read it!!! You will always remember it!!!!!!! :):):):):):):):)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
WONDERFUL! Margaret Haddix is an AMAZING AUTHOR! Definitly one of my favorites! She never disappoints... well, Turnabout was confusing, but this was GREAT! I love the Missing Series, and The Princess books (Just Ella, The Palace of Mirrors) were pretty good also! Double Identity is my favorite by her, and this is a close second!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was AMAZING! But Margret is always a genius read this bookkkkkkk!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is a good book...i dont recomend it to young children
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Defenitely recomende
Katherine Siddall More than 1 year ago
This book was very confusing but i loved the parts where i understood it. It had so much action and drama in it. This is one of my favorite bookz from Magreat! She is one of my favorite authors. The cover of the book is what drew me into reading this book. Great book for a great price. Highly reccomned!
Sierra Chesko More than 1 year ago
I love this book! Read it!
Cheyenne Phillips More than 1 year ago
this is a GREAT book!
mattiesmith More than 1 year ago
Escape from Memory is an interesting, suspenseful book. Kira has the strange memory and tries to find out more about it when her mother suddenly goes missing and a strange woman that claims to be her Aunt from the far away land Cryth. The woman says they must go to cryth to find the mom. That's when Kira finds her best friend in her suit case, finds out that the woman claiming to be her aunt is evil, and isn't her aunt, and Kira gets locked in a basement with her mom. From their on she has to struggle to get back to her hometown safely with her mom and best friend. Though the plot had many twists and turns that could keep you flipping pages there were also some boring spots. Plus, sometimes it went a little too far with plot changes. This book might be better for someone who really enjoys sci-fi, but, for others, it would probably not be as great.
MelissaIssa More than 1 year ago
I first found this book four years ago in 6th grade, and I loved it. I can honestly say that this book is the reason why I'm so into reading now. I remember being so engulfed into the story, that I would not put it down! I have never forgotten this book and I'd seriously reccomend to any adult, unless you're looking for a more challenging read (I mean, I read it when I was eleven and understood it perfectly). This book was definitely entertaining.
extraweasley More than 1 year ago
awesome book!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Way better than the sumery (if possible)IT ROCKS!!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Kira Landon came home from her friend, Lynn¿s, house and discovered a memory from her past by being hypnotized. Soon after, Kira finds clues about her past such as keys, notes, and the computer. Then a woman appeared at her door step right after she discovered the note her mother had left to tell her to go to Lynn¿s house. The woman took Kira to Crythe, the land of her past. The woman told Kira she was her ¿Aunt Memory¿ and told Kira of her past and had her about her past and had Kira tell a speech which Kira didn¿t do because she didn¿t truly believe it. She was brought to a dungeon where her told the truth about Crythe, and how she was Kira¿s real ¿Aunt Memory¿. Soon after, the woman found Lynn and brought her to the dungeon too. Then Kira suddenly remembered the keys in her pocket and tricked Rona, the woman, into bringing Lynn and her to the safe deposit box in the town where they lived. On the way back to their hometown, Lynn hypnotizes Kira and then Kira remembers her past. Once they got there rona wawsan¿t allowed to see the items in the box so Kira wrote in Russian to trick Rona into thinking it is her father¿s handwriting. In the end will Rona kill Kira and Lynn? Will Rona kill Kira¿s mother? I liked the part when she actually remembered her past and her real parents because then she knew who her mother and father were. I also liked the part where Kira thinks of the idea about the safe Deposit Box and tricked Rona. I pretty much liked everything about this book and I have know complaints. This book is not part of a series but there are many other great books by Margret Peterson Haddix. I would probably recommend this to people who enjoy a slight mystery. Enjoy reading this book as much as I did.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This story begins in a inland state in the U.S.. A girl called Kira lives with her mother in a small town. soon she goes to a sleepover and her freinds make her remember her past through hypnosis. But her past is not normal, and she is soon carted away to the town of cryan, where everyone remembers everything. her past is revealed to her, and she learns about her parents, her REAL parents. Evenually, she leaves cryan and goes home, An okay ending, but not great. lots of exitement and mystery. I give this a 6 out of ten.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i read this book in a day it was the first book that i read by Margaret Peterson Haddix and because of it I've read all of her book's
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is about Kira, a teenaged girl, who has to save her mom from Aunt Memory who is not who she really says. Kira travels back to where she use to live and has to save herself and her mom. The only thing she has to help her and her mom is her memories. I liked this book because it was like an adventure and a mystery in one book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just couldn't put the book down.Like I said it was 'Amazingly Addicting!'. I think the title fits the story,but it's not as obvious that she (Kira) is really trying to escape from memory as I believe it should be. You just really have to study and read it closly to find out what is going on. I've read it once and now I'm reading it a second time! I was not dissapointed!