The Memory Wall
An engrossing middle-grade novel set in a high-fantasy video game world that’s part Kathryn Erskine’s Mockingbird, part Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls.
Wellhall is an immersive online fantasy world full of giants, sorcerers, and elves—and it’s junior-high-schooler Nick’s only escape from real life. Nick and his mom used to play the online video game together before her early-onset Alzheimer’s forced her to enter an assisted-living facility. At first, Nick seeks distraction in the game, but he soon becomes convinced that his mom is playing the game as a character named Reunne, and dropping him hints about her diagnosis and how he can help her return home.
Even as Nick becomes more and more certain that Reunne is actually his mother, Nick’s father and his new friend encourage Nick to confront the possibility that the game is just a game, and that he needs to be prepared to say goodbye to his mother as he knows her. . . .
“Readers—gamers and nongamers alike—will cheer the resolution of Nick’s transformative journey. Thoughtful, earnest, and gratifying.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A lovely, heartwarming story of a young man negotiating personal crises with the help of games, friends, and family, perfect for readers who appreciate a blend of fantasy and realism.” —The Bulletin
“A complex, emotional story about grief and acceptance. . . . A strong, thought-provoking novel.” —Publishers Weekly
Unable to cope with his mother's early-onset Alzheimer's, a boy finds solace in the latest installment of his favorite video game, Wellhall, a complex fantasy world with uncanny parallels to his real life. While his mother accepts her fate, checking into a home where she can receive care, Nick researches other diseases, certain that she can be cured. And as he plays Wellhall, he meets a character that he suspects to be his mother, granting him hope that she's playing the game as well. Nick's struggle to accept his mother's condition interweaves with his online quest, though not always as he expects. Rosen (Woundabout) crafts a complex, emotional story about grief and acceptance, but it's somewhat diluted by the other subplots at play (Nick is also dealing with bullies, his biracial background, and a nascent romantic interest, and a major theme of the narrative invokes the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall). Even so it's a strong, thought-provoking novel. Ages 9 12.