Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Review: Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin
3.75 stars

Reasons for reading: I've been meaning to since it came out; Medical Condition book for the What's in a Name Challenge

From the jacket flap:

"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 fiancĂ©e.
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."

First lines: "Above all, mine is a love story. And like most love stories, this one involves chance, gravity, a dash of head trauma."

My thoughts: This was a really interesting, enjoyable book. Amnesia can be such a soap-opera cliche, but I thought Zevin handled it well. After falling down a flight of stairs, Naomi can't remember a thing from the past 4 years. I found it to be a fascinating concept - if you didn't know anything about your current life, would you still think it was worthwhile? Would you still like your friends and hobbies? Would you like yourself? I think I'd still be okay, but maybe not. Naomi has lost 4 very important years - from 12 to 16, so she's basically an entirely different person than the one she remembers.

It's also interesting the way people react to her amnesia. Will is a wonderful friend, making her CDs and DVDs and writing to her to try and jog her memory (and, contrary to the blurb, patiently reminding her of things). Her dad tries to help by making rather useless lists of what she can't remember, but overall he does a pretty good job of trying to help her through an impossible situation. Her dumb jock boyfriend, Ace, asks if she remembers something and then rambles on about it, even when she says no. And, of course, he wants them to start having sex again, which in Naomi's mind she's never done before. Her mean girl "friends" use her weakness to get even meaner. But since she's a blank slate, Naomi's willing to get to know new people and try new things, which is very good for her.

Then there's beautiful, tortured James. Rather like a duckling bonding with the first creature it sees, he's the only person there when Naomi trips and he accompanies her to the hospital. From then on, she's in love with him and this leads where all girls being in love with tortured souls always leads. Can you tell I found that part a bit annoying? But it does fit in with the story, I'm just tired of teen girls falling for bad boys!! (He's not really bad, but he's pretty messed up.)

And, fortunately, despite a lot of misunderstandings, things turn out very well, even better than they were before Naomi's memory vanished, since she seems (apart from her friendship with Will) to have been a perfect example of teenage brattiness.

Favourite section: Naomi and her family are watching a nature documentary that has just stated that, before mating, a male porcupine will cover the female from head to toe "with his own urine."

"His own urine?" Dad asked. "Isn't that redundant? Who else's urine might he be using?"

The TV narrator advised "never getting too near porcupines mating," which seemed like sound, if obvious, advice to me.

My thoughts: Despite some angst, an interesting and overall enjoyable read.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Keep posting stuff like this i really like it.