TEEN LIBRARIAN'S REVIEW:
I was rather fortunate to snag an advance copy of Gabrielle Zevin's ("Elsewhere") latest book at Book Expo. "Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac" is due to be released at the end of August, so you can imagine how excited I was to read it before the rest of the public.
Have you all read "Elsewhere"? I reviewed it a while back in this very blog and loved it, so check out that review here. Ok … are you back? Great.
In this novel, Zevin again plays with our conceptions of memory and history and examines how they intersect with our relationships at home, school, and with friends and boyfriends. Here Naomi Porter, who is just about to start her junior year of high school, trips down a set of stairs and loses her memory. Well, that's not precisely correct, as she only loses her memory of the past four years of her life. Naomi has completely forgotten her parents' divorce, her new baby sister, her ultra-beige house, her eccentric best friend Will, and her jock boyfriend Ace. Even beyond that, Naomi cannot recall how to drive a car, speak French, or why on earth she ever agreed to be the co-editor of the school's yearbook.
And so begins Naomi's story, in which she embarks on what amounts to a new life. She rejects Ace and his obnoxious friends, drops yearbook (and by extension, Will, her fellow co-editor), acts in a school play, and seeks out the mysterious, possibly dangerous James, the only person more damaged than Naomi.
Teen readers will enjoy much of this story. Naomi is a strong narrator with a powerful, distinctive voice. Even when she messes up — which happens quite frequently — it's hard not to be sympathetic to her. Zevin does a great job conveying Naomi's feelings of loss, abandonment, and isolation. Still, the character of James is so underwritten (he is, just about literally, a blank slate) that it's difficult to feel much toward him one way or the other. That's unfortunate, because a big part of the story involves Naomi and James and the ways in which they try to help each other find a place where they belong. Also, the ending feels a bit rushed and forced, as if Zevin herself wasn't exactly sure where the incredibly interesting premise of her story would lead.
I read this book in one sitting, which I suspect most of you will do, too. It's a good mix of drama, humor, and romance, really taking our conceptions of the classic coming of age tale and turning them around a bit. I was a little disappointed — perhaps I just expected more from Zevin? — but overall, I would recommend this to teen girls in 8th grade and beyond.