The Memory Thieves

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Pub Date 5 Aug 2021 | Archive Date 5 Aug 2021

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What you don't remember can't hurt you...

Cyan has lived at the Elsewhere Sanctuary for as long as he can remember, freed by Dr Haven from dark memories of his past life. But when Cyan finds a mysterious warning carved into the bones of a whale skeleton, he starts to wonder what he had to forget to be so happy.

New resident, Jonquil, begins to resist the sanctuary's treatment, preferring to hold on to her memories - even the bad ones. So when Dr Haven resorts to harsher measures, Cyan embarks on a secret mission to discover the truth about the sanctuary...and himself.

From the acclaimed author of Scavengers, The Memory Thieves is a dazzling feat of world-building; a truly unique, spine-tingling adventure for children to escape to.

Darren Simpson lives in Nottingham with his wife and two mischievous boys, and spends most of his time pretending he knows what he's doing. After not quite making it as a drummer in a rock band, Darren turned to writing and discovered that it's a fun way not only to escape reality, but also to explore and confront it in unusual ways. He can usually be found lost in his headphones or eating cake mix with a spoon.

What you don't remember can't hurt you...

Cyan has lived at the Elsewhere Sanctuary for as long as he can remember, freed by Dr Haven from dark memories of his past life. But when Cyan finds a...

Advance Praise

"Marvellously visual and gripping" - A. M. Howell, author of The Garden of Lost Secrets

"Marvellously visual and gripping" - A. M. Howell, author of The Garden of Lost Secrets

Marketing Plan

The Memory Thieves approaches topical themes around mental health and managing negative emotions and experiences in an imaginative and child-centred way and has been sensitivity read by a professional child psychologist.

Classroom and book club discussion packs are available to request from Please put 'The Memory Thieves discussion pack' in the subject heading, and include your school, library or bookshop postal address. Packs will be sent out just before publication.

The Memory Thieves approaches topical themes around mental health and managing negative emotions and experiences in an imaginative and child-centred way and has been sensitivity read by a...

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ISBN 9781474976695
PRICE £7.99 (GBP)

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Featured Reviews

Welcome to the Elsewhere Sanctuary, tucked away in a mysterious and seemingly cut-off location, where people go to have their painful memories erased. Cyan has lived at the Sanctuary for as long as he can remember, under the care of the elusive Dr Haven who seems ostensibly to have the patients’ best interests at heart. However, when Cyan stumbles across a cryptic warning and a secret message scratched into the bones of a whale skeleton, he soon starts to question everything he believes to be true and to wonder what it was that he was so desperate to forget. When a new resident resists her treatment, Cyan starts to uncover the secrets of the Sanctuary and sets out to discover the truth.

Imagine Shutter Island mixed with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and combine those with the storytelling prowess of Darren Simpson… and what you have is a twisty, intelligent and thought-provoking gem of a book. The story is as intricately structured as the rooms and floors of the Sanctuary itself and the disorientating descriptions of its ever-changing layouts put you right there in the characters’ shoes. You feel every ounce of Cyan’s frustration as he strives to unravel what is really going on, whilst all the while remaining excited to turn each page and find out the next revelation.

To be honest, I was hooked on this book from the premise alone. We’ve all got memories we probably wish we could forget and given half the chance, I would bet that some of us would be seriously tempted by a treatment promising to remove them forever. What Darren does so cleverly with this story though, is to make you realise that our memories are a part of us and that traumatic experiences cannot simply be dealt with by brushing them under the carpet or hiding them away. The Memory Thieves carries a message that talking through feelings and facing problems by reaching out for support from others is paramount and I think that’s a message we all need to hear right now.

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Having sorted the reads on my little library shelf in school into various genres at the start of the academic year, it saddens me that the science fiction section has always been much smaller than, say, those containing adventures or funny books. I guess that certain types of story are always more popular, but as a lifelong fan of TV programmes such as Blake’s 7 and the still-popular Dr Who, I yearn for my class to experience the joy and excitement that comes from the types of futuristic or dystopian stories that I enjoyed at their age in the printed versions that I read.

This is a title which cannot fail to excite its reader. Tense, gripping and sinister from the off, it is one which had me spellbound and is one with a highly believable plot which will lead those picking it up to feel very uncomfortable at times with its seemingly simple premise: what you don’t remember, can’t hurt you, because all of us have memories that, given the choice, we would choose never to remember.

And so it is with Cyan, a resident of the Elsewhere Sanctuary, who is pondering on a seemingly incoherent message scratched onto the bone of a whale sticking out of the dry sand, close by to the facility where he is receiving treatment. Spying an incoming helicopter, he bets his friend Teal that the chopper is bringing in a new patient and is proved right when he is summoned by Head Orderly Ms Ferryman to meet Jonquil, who has just arrived, and is charged with showing her around the sanctuary and the island on which it stands.

Before he can do so, Ms Ferryman asks Jonquil to hand over her watch, explaining that she will need to lose her sense of time to aid the disorientation that will form part of her therapy. Once she has done so, Jonquil is taken by Cyan to meet Dr Haven, the sanctuary’s director, who gives her some pills before administering her first treatment session. Following this, a groggy Jonquil sits in the sanctuary’s library with Cyan before he shows her how to safely navigate her way around the building and reassures her that she will soon get used to the rules and routines there.

When Jonquil tries to break one of the rules though, Cyan is shocked by what happens to her and he starts to realise that there is more than losing bad memories at stake. Questioning how ethical the clinic’s treatment of its patients is, he begins to investigate just what is happening to those around him but with further treatments on the cards, finds himself wondering whether he will be able to remember what he finds…

Following the story, the author has included a short section describing the inspiration for writing this book, which I found fascinating. There cannot be anyone, surely, who does not have painful memories that are hard to ignore when they resurface, and although we are often told that time is a great healer, for some people that is simply not the case. How tempting it would be to be able to selectively remove those thoughts that you do not wish to experience again, but at what cost would that removal come? As someone who experiences periods of anxiety and depression, the closest I have been to this situation is those times when I have needed treatment to help me cope with how I have felt, but if I were given the option to wipe those episodes from my memory, I don’t know if I would, no matter how grim they may have been.

Whether touched by mental illness or not, it is part of the human experience to come up against challenging incidents as well as all of the wonderful things that happen too, and that is the genius of this story which makes it so very believable – and so very sinister. Traditionally, the medical profession has always been trusted – possibly even more so now because of Covid – and yet we know that doctors wield great power: power which potentially is open to terrible abuse. When Cyan starts to realise that things are not as they should be at the sanctuary, not only does he have to work out what is going on, but he needs to find how to break the trust placed in the clinic by those in its community.

With it powerful description of the island setting, and its gripping narrative, this is a book which will keep its readers on the edges of their seats from the very start until the conclusion. I would say this is definitely a title more suited to Year 6 and above, although I have a few more mature readers in my Year 5 class who would also enjoy this. I thought it was incredible, and am now keenly anticipating the author’s Furthermore, due summer 2021, of which there is a taster at the end of the book.

Enormous thanks must, of course, go to Usborne Publishing and Net Galley for my advance read, ahead of publication on August 5th. A very memorable 5 out of 5 stars.

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Think of your worst, most painful memory. The thought that keeps you awake at night, the image that brings you out in a cold sweat. Now imagine this memory could be washed away, permanently erased. Interested? Then the Elsewhere Sanctuary is waiting for you. Leave your troubles at the door and sink into blissful oblivion.

Cyan loves his life at the Elsewhere Sanctuary. Untroubled by time, haunting memories and emotion, he spends his days exploring. That is until he stumbles upon a warning urging him to remember. The arrival of a new resident further disturbs his escape from reality. Will Cyan be able to face his past or is it really better to remain oblivious?

I thoroughly enjoyed The Memory Thieves: it was unpredictable, rather creepy and filled with the unmistakeable air of menace. The character creation was sublime - likeable heroes and truly horrible villains gave me James Bond-eque vibes. The book encouraged me to contemplate on the importance of facing our traumas and reminded me how memories, no matter how painful, are all part of life, and of love. This book felt like a psychological thriller and would be a worthy addition to any Year 6 classroom bookshelf. Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC.

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What an incredible story! There is so much mystery, sinisterly events and characters as well as determination and a fight to remember from the perspective of the main characters.
When Cyan finds some cryptic words scored into dried out whale bones, he is unsure of their meaning but he remembers them and heeds the warning that his emotions give him. Believing he can trust those in the facility where he lives, he mentions the event to the doctor. Told not to worry about it, Cyan carries on introducing new resident Jonquil to the workings of her new home.
Children find their way to the centre after traumatic and painful events have them begging to forget what happened to them. This becomes their oath, a daily reminder they can view via their lockets at any time. In between meals and free time, the children are offered treatments and medications to help them repress trauma and pain. As you read, you quickly become aware of the sinister nature of this program and the reasoning and danger behind it.
Cyan is smart and begins to make connections, putting himself in danger while he searches for clues and answers. By enlisting the help of Ruby, by burying their medication and via sneaking around staff quarters, Cyan is getting close to the truth.
Are he and Ruby ready for the truth? Are they ready to face their own painful pasts?

So much of this book is an ode to understanding and dealing with intense emotion and pain, and the knowledge that sharing, communicating and being honest are the tools to help people through it. The treatments were encouraging repressed emotions and a total unawareness of the past but as the main characters come to realise, talking is the best way to find your way out.

What a thrilling adventure. I completely devoured this book in one evening, not able to put it down and end the story. Brilliantly written and with such vivid characters and setting that I felt very much a part of the tale, viewing the story from the inside!

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Peculiarly plotted. Masterly crafted. Intriguing & unpredictable. The Memory Thieves is brilliance with a heart!

Massive respect to author Darren & gratitude to Usborne & Net Galley for the e-ARC.

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Elsewhere Sanctuary is a place where children go to help them forget major traumas that have happened in their lives; they are even given new names. Cyan has been a resident there for as long as he can remember when Jonquil arrives to begin her treatment. However, she isn't as keen to forget everything and, when she asks to talk about the past, things take a darker turn and Cyan is shocked by the way Dr Haven changes her treatment. Suddenly Jonquil is a shadow of her former self and Cyan begins to worry about what Dr Haven is doing and exactly how the sanctuary's treatments may be effecting everyone. The question is, can he find out what is going on before his treatments cause him to forget these recent discoveries?
I wasn't quite certain what to expect when I began reading this book but I'd heard great things from others on Twitter so I was keen read it myself. The world Darren builds is both wonderful and scary at the same time. The premise of the Sanctuary is that it helps children to improve their mental illness and to rid them of the traumas they have faced in their lives; however, from the beginning, there seems to be a darker undertone in the notion of the lockets the children have to wear and the way they record their oath in such a traumatic way as a reminder to themselves of why they are there. The further into the book I got, the more I felt the sinister nature of Dr Haven's treatment ... and the more compelling the book got.

Darren's writing is very clever: the book has a calm feel to it and the pace reflects the nature of the sanctuary; however, (and this is where I feel things get clever), the more you read, the more you realise that something is very wrong at this institute. I felt myself completely gripped and desperate to reach in and save Cyan, Jonquil and the others but unable to do so - in essence, I felt trapped on the outside and helpless, rather like Cyan. I could feel the panic slowly rising and the desperate need to keep reading overtook me, yet the pace of the story remained steady, which I found even more compelling and a reflection of Dr Haven and his approach towards his patients - it gave the whole book a very sinister undertone that had my heart racing!

I am sure that many of us will have memories we wish to forget, for whatever reason, but this book is absolute testimony that simply erasing them is not the answer!

This is a different and almost eerie book and I can't wait to share it with the children at school to see what they think of it - I know that the discussions will be very interesting!

The Memory Thieves is due for release on the 5th August.

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Darren Simpson does it again! He is a wonderful story teller who just gets better.

The Memory Thieves is the story of Cyan who lives at the Elsewhere Sanctuary where you can “forget” all your bad memories. He is happy and content there but one day, a chance encounter makes him want to remember his past. This is a book filled with high levels of mystery and intrigue and I sped through it, wanting more. There aren’t many classic sci fi novels in this age range so I foresee it becoming a classic before long. Cannot wait to see what Simpson brings us next.

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