Before You Forget

Watch the video about the story behind Before You Forget here.

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Year Twelve is not off to a good start for Amelia. Art is her world, but her art teacher hates everything she does; her best friend has stopped talking to her; her mother and father may as well be living in separate houses; and her father is slowly forgetting everything. Even Amelia.

At times funny, at times heartbreaking, this is an ultimately uplifting story about the delicate fabric of family and friendship, and the painful realisation that not everything can remain the same forever.

Order Before You Forget from Penguin Random House here. Release date 30 January 2017.

 Reviews

From Joanne Morrell in Westerly

… And although the major theme in Before You Forget is based on early-onset Alzheimer’s, there are many fitting storylines for an adolescent readership, providing relief to the book’s tragic topic: a love interest for Amelia in the cute boy next door and a disobedient Jack Russell called Hecta. Lawrinson captures the essence of youth in Amelia. Her character is unfalteringly comical, witty and emotionally charged with every page turn. Her relatable qualities will be a big hit among young readers. Before You Forget does not stray from Lawrinson’s other work, which boasts her usual style of engrossing prose and examination of major themes. But this novel, I feel, has been her biggest challenge yet: incorporating her and her teenage daughter’s heartbreakingly personal story of having lived and in a sense lost her husband and her daughter’s father to early-onset Alzheimer’s. Lawrinson pours first-hand knowledge into this novel about family, friendship and loss.

From Lyn Linning, Magpies

Before You Forget is an absorbing novel with memorable characters many readers will related to and accurate, sensitive inclusion of mental health issues and their consequences for family and friends as well as the individuals concerned.

From Love to Read Local (writingWA)

Established young adult author Lawrinson takes on new ground in this tragi-comic exploration of the impact of early-onset Alzheimer’s on a family. Told through the eyes of Year 12 art student Amelia, the story is unflinching in its description of the effects of this heartbreaking disease, but leavened throughout with heart and humour. As Amelia navigates the difficult terrain of adolescence, she must also come to terms with her father’s personality change, erratic behaviour, and subsequent diagnosis, and renegotiate her relationship with both parents as family dynamics shift. A wry, resilient character, Amelia is above all realistically drawn – at once angry and sad, short-tempered and tender as she tries to find a place for herself within an experience that makes little space for the young. As well as shining a clear light on an important topic, Before You Forget is a compelling story full of compassion, tightly and beautifully told.

Liz’s review is here

Gabby’s review is here

Amy’s review is here

Rob from Lamont Books’ review is here

Trisha’s review is here

Di Bates’ review is here

Here is a profile on the novel from Amanda Curtin

Here are 12 Curly Questions from the Kids Book Review.

And here is an interview with Joy Lawn at Boomerang Books

Author inspiration (from Penguin’s Teachers’ Notes)

This is a deeply personal story. I wrote it in close consultation with my daughter, who was 12 when her father’s symptoms of younger onset Alzheimer’s started becoming obvious, and at the beginning of year 11 when he was finally diagnosed. The process of losing her father in such way has been extremely painful: the grief is drawn out and unresolved. At school, she found it hard to relate to her friends who were going through other difficult but more ‘normal’ problems, like Gemma in the novel. The only person who she felt really understood was another girl whose mother was diagnosed with younger onset around the same time. Their relationship helped both of them get through.

Like Amelia, my daughter was in a specialist art program, and she found great solace in her work. She went from being an unfocused student to winning the prize for her subject in year 12: the obsessive energy created by the turmoil her family was in was redirected to her art. She also had an incredibly supportive art teacher, who provided her with some stability when it was lacking elsewhere.

Shaping a novel based on real life is harder than writing from ‘pure’ imagination, because a story has to be fictionalised and satisfying as a narrative, so my editors had quite a task with the first draft I sent them! It needed to be drawn into a coherent whole from the fragments I’d collected. (Our Jack Russell is the only character who appears as himself, unchanged from the very naughty dog he is!) 

I hope the novel does a lot of things: to remind readers of how fragile life can be, and how important our connections to others are; to make people think more about the huge impact diseases like Alzheimer’s and other diseases of the brain (including mental illness) have not just on the person with it, but their families; and I hope, too, to redeem suffering through creating art, the way Amelia does in the novel.