Monday, November 12, 2007

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

I recommend this book for: high school

This book deserves a big WOW. I loved Zevin's Elsewhere, and this title did not disappoint me in spite of my very high expectations - in fact, I skipped a lot of housework to stay in bed and finish this one!

Naomi is a high school junior, a dedicated co-editor of the yearbook, a star tennis player and of course, a member of the popular crowd. Where's the conflict? After leaving a new, very expensive camera inside the school, she and her quirky best friend Will (the other yearbook editor) flip a coin to decide who should go back for it. Naomi loses, and on the way back out to her car, she falls down the stairs and wakes up in an ambulance with a boy named James who says he's her boyfriend, but not really. She's not sure if he is or not, because she can't remember anything that's happened since she turned 12.

As she struggles with the revelations of things she's forgotten (for instance, her parents' divorce!), Naomi has to face important questions about herself and her relationships. Can she be the girl she was, or does starting out with a clean slate make her a totally different person? How can she go back to that life when she can't figure out why she was dating Ace or why yearbook was so important to her? How can she stay away from James when he seems to be the only person who can relate to not having a past? I found it amazingly heart-wrenching and funny and thought provoking - all of those things Elsewhere was, but with characters who are alive - and they really did seem to live. A few things seemed like a stretch, such as Naomi's father not even questioning her when she tells him that she has to go to California the next day, but overall everything was very well done.

Some people may object to a few things in the book - teens are realistically swearing and drinking, and although she can't remember it and there is no detail, we find that Naomi had been sleeping with her boyfriend before her accident. I didn't find it offensive, as all of these elements were just small parts of the bigger picture of Naomi re-establishing her identity and figuring out what -and who - was still important to her. An engrossing and interesting novel.

From the people who get paid for this . . . I particularly like the book description section, which comes from the front flap of the cover.

I was sorely tempted to write above somewhere that Naomi ends up with the guy that the reader has known is the right one the entire time, but I wouldn't want to ruin the suspense for anyone. But yeah, she does, and I'm curious if it's just me or if anyone else was seriously reminded of the Anne of Green Gables love story while reading this. Guy and girl are best friends, he's in love with her forever, she finally realizes how she feels when he gets seriously sick and runs to be at his side even though there's another girl in the way, but that relationship ends because he's always been in love with her . . . okay, so maybe it's more archetypal than I thought originally. But seriously, all I could think of during that last hospital scene was Gilbert Blythe - not that that's a bad thing. Just wondering if I'm crazy . . . or maybe I need to rent the films again because I'm experiencing Avonlea withdrawal . . .

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