Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, Gabrielle Zevin

Monday, March 19, 2018

So you know how on soap operas, anytime they want to shake things up they do something like bring someone back from the dead or give someone amnesia? And how that always feels contrived and unbelievable and lazy? Yeah, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac is the OPPOSITE of that.

Naomi was your average high school student-editor of the school paper, tennis star, popular girl. She was an average high school student, that is, until she fell down the stairs and gave herself amnesia. She remembers nothing about her life for the past four years. She doesn't remember why her best friend calls her "Chief". She doesn't remember her father's fiance or her mother's new family-in fact she doesn't remember them getting divorced. She doesn't remember her boyfriend Ace, and she certainly can't remember why she fell in love with him in the first place. The first thing she remembers since the accident is the face of a boy named James, who pretended to be her boyfriend to get into the hospital to see her. Naomi struggles to regain her old life, but the more she learns about it, the more she wonders if she wants it all back. Will she still be the same person when and if her memory does return?

Zevin manages to make the whole amnesia thing feel new and fresh, despite the many, many, MANY times it's been used in literature, TV, and movies. The new Naomi is such a different person in some ways than the pre-amnesia Naomi that I found myself wondering if I would like her as much if Zevin had started the story with her old self instead of her new one. While there is a romance component, the parts I found more compelling was the relationship between Naomi and her best friend Will. In regards to the age-old question of whether men and women can ever just be friends, I'm much more a Sally than a Harry (When Harry Met Sally? You know? Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal? Of course, Sally ends up getting together with her best friend in the end, which sort of negates my point. OK, then I'm a 'beginning of the movie" Sally). I always appreciate when an author or film-maker presents straight characters of different genders who are just friends. Of course, despite that, this story is a love story, albeit one that is told through a very inventive plot.

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