Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Laying to Rest Childhood Mystery #4619-B

Perhaps you can help me with this. For months -- possibly years -- I've been trying to track down a young adult novel I read when I was ten or eleven. It's called Jem (no, not the National Book Award-winner by Frederick Pohl, though that's the only book the internet wants to tell me about), and these are the only details my spotty memory can yield:

The story starts at some point after the earth's population has been simultaneously afflicted with amnesia. The story is told, I believe, in the first person, by a narrator whose name I can't recall, but he describes how people try to deal with the confusion and aftermath of whatever has happened. A central character emerges in his narrative: a young man named Jem, who seems to have his shit together a little better than everyone else. As the narrator struggles with his own memories, which seem to be trying to resurface, Jem emerges as a possibly dangerous character who may have had something to do with the entire cataclysm.

I think. Like I said, I was only ten or eleven, and my precocious little brain didn't deal well with subtlety, ambiguity, and deliberately unresolved endings. My most vivid memory of reading this book was of perplexedly scrutinizing the last few pages before finally having to return the damn book to the library. And now I need to re-read it just so that I can finally lay to rest the burning question: WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS BOOK ABOUT?

For what it's worth, I've looked on Abebooks and Powell's. No luck. Any tips? Better yet, does anyone have a copy they can send me? In exchange, I'll trade you a book that actually makes sense.

9 comments:

librarianpm said...

Could it be "The Spirit of Jem"?
http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/n/p-h-newby/spirit-of-jem.htm

I never read it myself, but the description "A boy's adventure story in which characters mysteriously lose their memories." seemed a good fit

tuckova said...

It's about man's inhumanity to man, and although it doesn't deny despair, it does leave open a dim hope for a better future.

Adam875 said...

Try emailing the "Ask The AV Club" column at avclub.com. They're REALLY good at this stuff.

Kristina said...

I agree with librarianpm, "The Spirit of Jem" looks right. I found it, with a detailed description, starting at $1.99 at Alibris:http://www.alibris.com/search/search.cfm?qwork=6268789&wtit=jem&matches=36&qsort=r&cm_re=works*listing*title

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Dimestore Lipstick said...

Dang. I thought I was rushing in to save the day, telling you it was "The Spirit of Jem" by P.H. Newby. Only to find that I'd been beaten to it multiple times!

Oh, well. I'll just have to take the opportunity to agree with your spam--"the information you show us is interesting for everybody and is really good written.

Prolix said...

I checked worldcat (www.worldcat.org), a giant union catalogue of libraries all over the world. I second the first commented who suggested "The Spirit of Jem." The author is P. H. Newby.

Doppelganger said...

Oh my god, you guys are the best! That is totally the book! It's even the same cover!

And tuckova, I believe your assessment is correct. You can bet I'll be getting back to you all with a full report after I re-read it.

Maral said...

I don't know if "Spirit of Jem" is on this, but here is a site that specializes in solving exactly this kind of childhood mystery
http://www.logan.com/loganberry/solved-a.html

Be prepared to spend hours and days....