The Amnesia Project
by Payton Todd
Published by Wood Dragon Books
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$19.99 ISBN 9781990863264
Keeping journals and writing poetry are common practices among teens, and I commend them for documenting their lives, even if no one else ever sees the writing. Some of our most exciting and/or trying experiences may occur during adolescence, and writing’s good therapy. What’s highly uncommon, however, is for a teenaged writer to have a book published, and for that book to be a 302-paged, young adult sci-fi novel with a large cast of well-developed characters, a complex and dynamic plot, and a satisfying conclusion.
Enter Payton Todd and The Amnesia Project. At age fifteen, the avid writer and student from Wood Mountain, SK won the Wood Dragon Books’ Young Author Competition. After working with publisher Jeanne Martinson on successive edits, the attractive, action-filled novel was released. In an interview with moosejawtoday.com, Martinson said “Wood Dragon worked around Payton’s school schedule, and she lives on a [cattle] ranch, too, so she has a lot of chores and obligations. We’re really proud of this book …”
The futuristic novel centres around seventeen-year-old Kole Danvers, who finds himself assigned a new name and position—Beta 9X—at the Pacific Acting Authority Council (PAAC). He’s second-in-command within a team of four other teens, including white-haired Astrid, Alpha to his Beta. Initially “̒About as warm as a glacier. Snuggly as a jackhammer,’” confident Astrid much later “̒makes secure places feel safer’”. PAAC is a “post-war military operation that trains small teams, called units, to neutralize possible threats before they can spiral out of control and start another war”. But can PAAC be trusted? How have these young soldiers arrived at the compound? Who is the “̒new breed of soldier’” in the “incubation chamber”? And why is Kole having flashbacks from childhood when the other recruits (save a few) have no memories of life before PAAC?
Unlike Astrid, protagonist Kole lacks self-confidence. He also recognizes that he’s been craving “inclusiveness,” and he finds it among his cohorts: tough Astrid; brainy Colin; clownish Allister; and soft-spoken Maisie. Together the team trains physically and mentally for their missions, ie: “to rescue a group of young children from a refugee camp an hour’s flight off compound”.
I’m most impressed by how deftly Todd writes action scenes, which could quickly become melodramatic. It’s easy to “see” the fight scenes, and the author clearly knows about things like “flip holds,” and the science of flammables. She also uses a number of similes, which elevate the fiction toward poetry. Of one of Kole’s frequent childhood memories, Todd writes: “The memory fades like a fast-moving fog, billowing away and just out of reach”. When Astrid’s injured during a mission, the gash on her arm “spits pink bubbles like a science fair volcano”. There’s humour, credible dialogue, and interesting secondary characters.
Martinson says the Wood Dragon Books’ Young Author Competition will be held annually. “Payton is a serious writer who intends on making the publishing industry her field, and those are the kinds of writers we really want to zoom in on.” Wonderful!
THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM THE SASKATCHEWAN PUBLISHERS GROUP WWW.SKBOOKS.COM