The Erasure Initiative by Lili Wilkinson

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Allen & Unwin, 2020. ISBN: 9781760525057.
(Age: 15+) Recommended. Wilkinson writes powerful stories that challenge thinking and explore unusual situations. In this psychological thriller we see the story unfold through Cecily's eyes as she wakes up on board a bus with no memory of her past life, but with some recognition of past learning. Her entire identity seems to have been wiped out from her consciousness. It is not long before she discovers that her fellow passengers are in the same situation. With small flashes of recognition and connection they try to establish who they are and why they are together. While in this strange identity fog they are required to submit to ethical tests and challenges that then play out before their eyes. Slowly, the degree of difficulty of these ethical choices ramps up to the extreme and all the passengers on board must fight for what they think is right. The twists in the tale and the control and manipulation upon the bus traveller's lives are revealed in a masterful way and the reader is carried along in the fast-paced ride wondering whether they should cheer for Cecily or deride her for her choices - whether personal relationship choices or her desires to escape.
This is an amazing psychological thriller that explores the choices people make and the motivations behind the bad choices that they make. Do bad choices imply that someone will always be bad? The characters in this story are all flawed in some way, and the power of the narrative is in making them likeable and relatable despite their failings. From the Senator and her son, to the lesbian computer hacker, the tattooed tough guy, and the bespectacled arsonist, all become linked in a plot to change them for the better. Cecily though seems the hardest to change. With small glimpses into the past through alternate documents woven between chapters Wilkinson has created a very powerful ethical drama and a science-fiction psychological thriller. This book does require some maturity to read. It is compelling but also disturbing and occasionally violent. But it is so unique and intriguing that mature readers will enjoy the 'roller-coaster' adventure. Teacher's tips and author discussion video are available on the publisher's website.
Themes: Memory and amnesia; Behaviour Modification; Ethics; Psychological thriller; LGBTI.
Carolyn Hull