Title: Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Genre: Fiction, YA
Publisher: Square Fish (2009)
Rating: 4/6 – I really liked it! Will keep/read again
Synopsis from cover: Sometimes, a girl needs to lose.
If Naomi had picked tails, she would have won the coin toss.
She wouldn’t have had to go back for the yearbook camera, and she wouldn’t have hit her head on the steps.
She wouldn’t have woken up in an ambulance with amnesia.
She certainly would have remembered her boyfriend, Ace. She might even have remembered why she fell in love with him in the first place.
She would understand why her best friend, Will, keeps calling her “Chief.” She’d get all his inside jokes, and maybe he wouldn’t be so frustrated with her for forgetting things she can’t possibly remember.
She’d know about her mom’s new family.
She’d know about her dad’s fiancee.
She wouldn’t have to spend her junior year relearning all the French she supposedly knew already.
She never would have met James, the boy with the questionable past and the even fuzzier future, who tells her he once wanted to kiss her. She wouldn’t have wanted to kiss him back.
But Naomi picked heads.
My Initial Thoughts/Rambling: After my horrible experience with Breathless, I was a bit hesitant picking up this next book. I almost leaned back into the realm of fantasy or science fiction, but I’ve been trying to find some good contemporary YA lit. I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed after picking this book! I read it in about three hours, in one sitting. I inhaled this one! (There’s a really old movie about a robot that my grandparents made me watch, and I totally forget everything except this one scene where the bot was flipping through a book at lightning speed and saying, “Input, input!” I think that’s an accurate representation of me.) Possible Spoilers Ahead.
What did I think about the characters? I’ll talk about the three boys first: Ace, Will, and James; and then Naomi.
Ace – he’s a flat-ish character, mostly a d-bag that serves to illustrate the person Naomi used to be. Near the end of the book, he does show a bit of maturity (apologizing for how he treated Naomi, and moving past their troubles to work together in a crisis), which is why he’s “ish.” Not a well-rounded character at all, but not entirely a stereotype either.
Will – the boy next door, and Naomi’s best friend for years. He’s patient, and helps Naomi keep track of where she should be and gently helps her try to remember the four years she lost, without overwhelming her. He wears wacky clothes, and speaks in a way that reminds me of my best guy friend: humorous and sarcastic and confident.
James – the “bad boy” with a mysterious past. Of course, he’s written in a way that I fell in love with him from page one. I guess it’s that whole enigmatic, puzzle-to-solve part of him that gets my attention. Layers to pull apart. [I really wish I had a gif of that onion scene from Shrek right now.] But! Once we get past those layers, it’s revealed that James really does need help, and isn’t right for Naomi at all.
Naomi – the most stand-out quality of this girl is how she deals with her relationships, particularly with the three boys. With James, she realizes that they were just feeding off each others problems, and their whole relationship was based on that. Once those were gone, they had nothing in common. I felt like she showed a lot of maturity in how she handled their situation: knowing when to let go of something and allow James to live his life and recover fully. There were times when Naomi was immature, especially with Will, but in the end she worked it out.
And the concept and plot? The concept was interesting – I haven’t read a book about a traumatic brain injury before. One of my closest friends had a TBI years ago – a congenital aneurism that ruptured – so I feel pretty comfortable in saying that I felt that the TBI effects were accurately portrayed, right down to how Naomi gets cold no matter what (my friend has trouble regulating temperature as well).
Plot – it was more of a “finding yourself” kind of novel, of course with the “let’s find my memories” aspect added in. It was more about friendships and how Naomi was affected by the amnesia. Does she choose to reinvent herself, or try to fit in to the mold of who she was before? She has, essentially, a second change, and she struggles with what to do with that.
What about the writing style? While I found it a bit confusing in the first chapter, once I figured out all the names and their relationship to Naomi I settled right in. Zevin has a way of writing that’s very comfortable and deceptively simplistic – but not dull and lifeless.
Anything else you’d like to add? Maybe this doesn’t earn a place on the Shelf of Glory, but it was a solid read, and entertained me for several hours. It’s easy to lose myself in Naomi’s world, and I’ll be keeping this one around for a while to read it again.
I got this one from the Amazon bargain book section, and after checking right now, there are still five copies left for $3.60! (I checked at 9:30 pm PST on 7/17)