Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin

Tabula RasaTabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin

My rating: 3.5 or 3.75 of 5 stars

Tabula Rasa takes place in a hospital like facility near the Canadian border (Oh Canada!). There, some doctors run experiments on patients by drilling holes into their heads as they try to wipe their memory. The patients don’t know who they are, what they are there for, and have no idea how they look like.

For Sarah, her time in the facility has been a blur of nothing. She doesn’t remember her past, her present is bleak. All she has is the hope that her surgeries, which she has to be awake for, works so she can be blessed with a new life.

But Sarah feels like something is missing and she isn’t just talking about her memories. It isn’t until her final surgery is cancelled that everything slowly comes back to her. When she gets back to her room, she finds pills, some clothing, and a piece of paper. Naturally, she takes the pill after reading the paper and thus starts her journey in getting back her lost memories. Memories she may not want back.

Aided by her fellow patients, a genius hacker, and some PTSD soldiers, Sarah will find the truth about her life, the hospital, and a few other secrets that could change everything. She’ll have to work fast though, because someone wants nothing more than to see her dead and they’ll stop at nothing until that happens.

Sarah isn’t your typical YA heroine. She’s tough, she’s resourceful, and she’s vulnerable without it seeming over the top or contrived. I mean, some of it may be, but it doesn’t ever feel forced. They do refer to her as a special snowflake, but as the story continued it did start to make sense why. It wasn’t because of some grand prophecy or anything, just other things.

And even though this sounds shallow, I liked that she was Mexican, yay, for having visible minorities as main characters. I feel weird pointing this out here and in other books where this happens, but as someone who is also a visible minority it’s nice seeing someone different as the lead character.

I also loved the hospital that Sarah was from. In the beginning we get to meet another patient, Jori, who seemed interesting and depressing all at the same time and the scenes with the soldiers, was my favourite part of the novel. The patients were great and the general feel for the institution was creepy and off. I loved reading about it and liked how the story mainly took place there.

In fact, the plot (for the most part) and the characters (all except one) were well written and fleshed out nicely.

Surprisingly, I didn’t even mind the romance subplot here. It is a bit of an instalove, especially since only 48 hours passed and they were into each other, but it was so small that it never really took away from the story. There was an attraction between the two of them and the high intensity of the situation made their hormones flare up once, so it was understandable. Plus, Sarah never let her feelings stop her from remembering the bigger picture. Staying alive and trying not to get shot at.

Did the romance have to be in the story? As someone who isn’t big on YA romance, I don’t think so. But I also understand that this genre will almost always have it as a plot point, so I would rather it be done well than to have a love triangle, instalove, cheating romance instead. Thankfully, I feel like it was done well here, so I was fine with it.

There are a lot of great things about the book, but it does have its downsides too. One of them happened at the very end of the novel, in the epilogue sort of chapter. I was with it, but then I felt a bit meh about what happened. Without spoiling anything, I feel like the beginning portion of the chapter wasn’t really needed if a paragraph undid everything. I didn’t really like that as I felt like it was a cheap way to add some emotional distress, only for it to not really matter.

I also didn’t like the main bad guy. They seemed to have no redeeming qualities and were bad for….what exactly? Some things were mentioned, such as being poor and having a hard life, but I don’t think it justified a lot of the stuff that happened here. The hatred made sense, the extremity of it didn’t. At the end of the day, the bad guy was a stereotypical, one dimensional, crazy person who despite meticulously planning every single detail of their plan was still foiled by a couple of teens.

Not that I’m a villain or anything, but if I was I’d shoot first, then a couple of times after that before moving on to other things. Then I’d make sure that the person I want dead is actually dead, by checking their pulse and then shooting a few more times for good measure. I know this sounds excessive, but considering the amount of ‘dead’ but not really dead proclamations in this novel, you can never be so sure as to who is dead without making sure that they are really dead.

Now granted, the bad guy could have the personality type where they are so egotistical to the point that they think nothing can stop them, but that goes against what we learned about them. They climbed their way to the top and were willing to do whatever it took to get there. Even killing people in cold blood to make sure that happens. So an elaborate plan that doesn’t involve a few headshots or even some poisoning seems to be bit out of character for them.

Also, their rant in the end explaining why they did what they did kept going on and on and on.

Overall: Tabula Rasa is exciting, suspenseful, and really, really cool novel. Sarah is a strong character and when she isn’t, it’s understandable due to what has happened to her. She’s not weak though and doesn’t let her experiences and past stop her from fulfilling her tasks. The other characters, save one, are also fleshed out well.

Despite this, there are some downsides that kind of ruin what would have been an otherwise amazing novel. I do think that this was a wonderful debut though and can’t wait to see what Lippert-Martin comes out with next.

Tabula Rasa was provided by netgalley

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