A Review of Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, by Gabrielle Zevin

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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 know about her mom’s new family. She’d know about her dad’s fiancée. 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.

Rating: 3/5 Stars
Quick Reasons: an intriguing examination of adolescence and the way events shape/mold our decisions; contemporary fluff; well-done, maturely-handled scope of depression and mental illness; awesome character-growth

I have been wanting to read a Gabrielle Zevin novel for a long, long time. I picked this book up on a book swapping site several months ago and FINALLY got the chance to sit down and read it this week. I’m glad I did.

Gabrielle Zevin’s prose isn’t what I would call “poetic,” necessarily. The descriptions are pretty blasé, and I found myself strugging to really “see” myself in this story. It just wasn’t coming to life for me at the beginning. I was frustrated with our main protagonist, Naomi, for her immature, childish reactions and motivations. I couldn’t understand why, having been given the chance to start over that she was, she wasn’t LEAPING at the chance to reinvent herself or figure out who she really was. I didn’t understand why she would continue doing things or seeing people she didn’t really like on the off-chance that her memories would “bring back her emotions” about them as well. It doesn’t work that way, and I knew it. I didn’t like her at all at the start of this read.

As the book went on, though, Naomi begins exerting signs of self-growth. Somewhere in about the 50 page mark, she begins to realize that she’s not really LIVING her life—she’s letting other people do it for her, tell her how to. Everything changes when she breaks up with her boyfriend (who I didn’t like at all, to be honest)–she stops taking the backseat and instead takes the wheel.

I really loved HOW MUCH Naomi grows in this book. She goes through quite a bit of self-discovery, she examines herself pretty deeply at times, and I appreciated that she was the type of character who could do that for herself. When I was younger, I wasn’t that sort of person. In fact, I was a lot like Naomi, so maybe this also had something to do with how much I disliked her—I saw myself in her, and I didn’t like being confronted with that. I didn’t like being so honest with myself about who I was in high school. Except this book did something else: along Naomi’s journey to finding herself, it helped me to realize that while I was that person in the past, I’ve grown passed it now and am better for the experiences. It helped me come to terms with who I’ve become.

I’ve seen a few comments from people about how unrealistic it is that Naomi would “date” so many boys in one book/one year. I have only one thing to say to that: sometimes, it happens. I was one of those people; I didn’t like myself enough to be with myself, which meant I was always with someone else, even if I didn’t particularly like them. No, it wasn’t very fair to those people—I’m sure I hurt a good amount of decent guys in those years. I don’t think this is a reason to dislike the book; we all do this sort of thing. We’re all human. The point of this was self-discovery. Naomi went from two extremes: a relationship that wasn’t fulfilling at all, that didn’t bring her happiness or peace, to one of drama and pain and a whirlwind of emotions she maybe wasn’t quite so ready for. In the end, I think she found a balance; she learned that it doesn’t always have to be “all or nothing.” Sometimes it can just BE, to be good.

I enjoyed this read. It’s not one of my favorites, but the morales are thought-provoking and I really enjoyed how deeply I was allowed to look at myself in the process of learning about Naomi’s journey. I’d definitely recommend this to people who enjoy books by writers like Jay Asher, Jodi Picoult, and Sarah Dessen.

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