Fifteen-year-old Baxter Green has synesthesia; he hears voices as colors, textures or sounds.
And he never forgets anything. He’s never forgotten his homework, never lost a library book, never lost a shoe. He remembers every day of his life as if it just happened, even kindergarten and a little girl named Halle with daffodils in her voice. When he and his mother move to Wellington, Minn., to hide out from his mother’s criminal ex-boyfriend, who used Baxter’s memory for a credit card scam and went to prison, Baxter hopes to hide his unusual powers, fit in and never again be known as The Memory Boy. But Halle happens to live in Wellington now, too. Baxter doesn’t let on that he knows her and remembers everything about her, not wanting Halle to think him a freak with a weird superpower. A lot is going here—an exploration of synesthesia and memory, a crime story, an environmental drama, family relationships and a sweet, earnest love story with a nod to The Great Gatsby. But everything works, and, ultimately, it’s all of these things together that lead to Baxter’s transformation into a boy who doesn’t have to make himself invisible to fit in.
It’s a sweet love story, where holding hands with Halle, a kiss and being loved for who you are enough to make Baxter’s world anew. (Fiction. 11 & up)
Baxter Green, a 15-year-old who remembers every detail of his life dating back to an accident at age three, is the anxious, awkward hero of this offbeat modern romance. After his mother’s ex-boyfriend, Dink, is freed from prison for credit card fraud, Baxter (who testified against Dink in court and stole some of his money) flees California with his mother to begin a new life in Wellington, Minn., where his kindergarten soul mate, Halle, now resides. Baxter (who also has synesthesia) recalls every detail of their short-lived romance, but Halle has no memory of him. Just as Baxter seems to be making headway, regaining Halle’s affection, Dink discovers their new address and may be on his way to seek revenge.
Ellsworth (In a Heartbeat) has hold of a fascinating premise ... readers get a sense of the stress Baxter’s perfect memory brings. Readers will appreciate both the story’s literary allusions (Baxter’s class is reading The Great Gatsby) and Baxter’s desire to be “normal” and his determination to recapture the past as he remembers it.
School Library Journal
Fifteen-year-old Baxter Green doesn’t forget anything. He can remember each and every meal he ever ate, the father who died when he was just a toddler, the stolen credit card numbers his mother’s ex-boyfriend made him memorize, and the exact threat Dink issued when he went to jail. Now the man is being released, and Baxter and his mother decide to stay out of his way. The teen gets to choose where they will live next, and he picks the current home of his kindergarten crush, Wellington, MN. Halle doesn’t remember Baxter, but she likes him. As he tries to be normal, he can’t help but wonder if his feelings for her are true or just part of his unique memory. And what will happen when Halle finds out that he kept her in the dark about who he is? The thought of losing her is worse than the paranoia he feels about Dink. Ellsworth’s story is a new take on the standard coming-of-age tale. Baxter’s character is believable, and the nature of his memory is deftly explained. This readable novel will find fans among those looking for romance and drama.”
Baxter Green never forgets a face. Or a name, or a song lyric, or the minutest detail of everything he has ever experienced, including joy and pain, fear and love. He has a photographic memory and literally cannot forget anything, even when he wants to. So the feelings he had for Halle in kindergarten are so real and strong to him still, at fifteen, that it is confusing and disappointing when she does not remember him at all. Baxter and his mom, on the run from an ex-boyfriend with a serious grudge, move from California to Minnesota where he knows Halle will be, and where he hopes to renew a romantic spark. Things do not go as planned, but the boy known as “Memory Boy” will come to accept who and what he is, and to realize and appreciate his limitations. Ellsworth has created a genuinely sympathetic character in Baxter. His trials are unique, yet realistic—the difficulty of hiding the mixed blessing of his memory gift, the all-too-real threat of a dangerous man pursuing him, and the problems typical of a displaced fifteen-year-old boy. Memories interspersed throughout the narrative create a rich background that broadens the scale of the story. It is entertaining, but with some issues worthy of discussion—the environmental and health impacts of mining, and the social issues of kids who are different. Overall, this is a strong addition to any library serving young adults.
From the intriguing front dustcover to the light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel concluding pages, this title is a winner. Fifteen-year-old Baxter Green, the victim of a childhood accident, bears the burden of synesthesia. Baxter cannot forget anything—not colors, sounds, numbers, faces, his homework, phone numbers, the list goes on. For years, Baxter was studied by a psychiatrist who also served as a mentor in helping the youngster make sense of his world. However, when Baxter's mother's boyfriend is released from prison for a crime that he forced Baxter into helping him commit, both mother and son choose to run and hide. Thus, at fifteen, Baxter is entering high school for the first time and in Minnesota, not in his native California. If these tensions were not ample, there is a girl whom he has never forgotten, not since kindergarten and she lives in the same small Minnesota town. Narrated by Baxter, this quest for safety, for identity, and for that amazing Halle, his first love, will have readers, even reluctant ones, glued to this novel right up to its realistic and satisfying conclusion. Readers readily identify with this special needs protagonist regardless of how attractive his malady may appear on the surface. Synesthesia is a real condition and Ellsworth has provided a sympathetic protagonist that readers will remember long after the last page is turned. This title is highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries and should certainly be considered for the Schneider Family Book Award. Reviewer: Janice DeLong