Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac
by Gabrielle Zevin
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
(advance reading copies)
Note: The U.S. cover is pictured here;
the U.K. one, below
We’re here to discuss Gabrielle Zevin’s second YA novel, her first one being 2005’s Elsewhere (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), a 2006 ALA Notable Book and a Quill Book Award nominee, in which the afterlife is portrayed as a place where its inhabitants age in reverse until they reach infancy and are then sent back to Earth and reborn. She has also written one book for adults, Margarettown, and several screenplays.
In this novel, we meet seventeen-year-old Naomi, who takes a tumble down her high school steps one day after losing a coin toss with her best friend and co-editor of the yearbook, Will, over who should go back into the building to get the yearbook’s camera. She wakes to find that the past four years of her memory have been wiped clean and that she’s being assisted in the ambulance by a rather handsome fellow student about whom she knows nothing. Thus begins her journey of self-discovery as she tries to put back the puzzle pieces of her life, trying to remember Ace, her boyfriend; the complicated relationship she had with Will; why her parents are divorced; and why it takes her father a good while to tell her he’s now engaged. There’s also the issue of her mother’s new family, including a half-sister Naomi doesn’t remember at all.
We’re happy to host Jen Robinson for this, our second tri-review, the first one being fairly recently with Betsy Bird of A Fuse #8 Production and linked here, if you missed it. It was a pleasure to chat with Jen about this book. She’s a very astute reader, that one. Not to mention she graciously put up with our busy schedules while this was composed (we started this review one month ago!).
Watch Out: Some spoilers in the review below . . .
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Jules: Jen, we’re excited to have you tri-reviewing with us! What did you think of the novel? I, for one, really enjoyed it, though I admit it took some convincing for me to swallow the premise. I was scared of the whole amnesia set-up – in a this-is-a-bad-soap-opera-narrative kind of way. But kudos to Zevin for making it work. It quickly became entirely believable for me, and I was really wrapped up in what I thought were such honest and perceptive characterizations. And, of course, Zevin is using memory loss as a way to explore issues of – the very nature of – identity; I guess making it a temporary and partial amnesia worked better for me. A full-fledged one might have been harder to swallow. And, though I’m getting ahead of myself here, I found the ending to be pitch-perfect and perfectly charming. Yes, I used the over-rated “charming” in a review, but it really fits here.
Did you like it? And how did it compare to Elsewhere for you? I have yet to read that one, though the premise sounds fabulous to me. Read the rest of this entry �