Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, by Gabrielle Zevin

amnesiaWhen Naomi wakes up from her bad fall down the stairs of her high school, she can’t remember the last four years of her life. She doesn’t know about her parents’ divorce, her father’s recent engagement, her mother’s remarriage, or her 3-year old sister. She doesn’t know her best friend, the quirky, honest Will. She doesn’t know her boyfriend, the popular, athletic Ace. She doesn’t know why she shouldn’t get involved with the moody new student, James. Worst of all, she doesn’t know herself. Was she really the sort of girl who kept a detailed food diary and spent 20+ hours a week working on the yearbook? Did she really hide Cliffs Notes versions of books in her closet and think tennis wristbands were a romantic gift? And if she doesn’t know who she is, if she can’t remember, how can she possibly go on being the person everyone expects her to be?

This was a pretty good book. It didn’t sweep me away completely, mostly because I really didn’t like Naomi and she was narrating. She was realistically drawn, most of the main characters were, but she was the irritatingly self-centered sort of girl that I’ve always avoided. Will, on the other hand, was brilliant. I loved everything about him, from his old fashioned turns of phrase to his vintage velvet coats. I also liked James, though his unnamed emotional disorder was so perfectly presented that he seriously disturbed me and I didn’t want him anywhere near Naomi. The books’ end was a little farfetched but admittedly exactly what I’d hoped for, given the circumstances.

The idea of amnesia scares me. I mean, seriously terrifies me. When I was a teenager, I used to have dreams that I had woken up from a 4-year coma to find myself completely different (I blame some book I can no longer remember for instilling that fear in me – Update! I found it. The Other Side of Dark by Joan Lowery Nixon). I used to dream that my friends would leave me behind, or that I’d go into the coma when I was married and that my husband would leave me, my kids would forget. Serious fear. Amnesia is not much better than living in a coma – you’ve still lost that time. Maybe even worse – you’ve lost the time but no one else has. People have memories of you that you don’t have. That’s horrible horrible horrible. I don’t know what I’d do if I ever got amnesia. I know the first thing I’d be looking for is a diary I’d written. Makes me think I should do a better job keeping up with a diary…

But beyond that, what if you lost years of your life, and then at some time months or years after your accident, you suddenly remembered everything again? I’m not saying Naomi remembered – I actually won’t say either way – but I’m just trying to imagine what it would be like if you (the metaphorical ‘you’) were in her situation and then did remember after a long period of time. I mean, you couldn’t remember your past, you created a new life with a new personality, new friends, new interests, and suddenly you could remember why you had that old personality, those old friends, and those old interests. How could you cope? It’d be like losing your life all over again, or suddenly having two lives. All these knotty questions are stuffed into this book, and they make me quite uncomfortable, given how terrified I am of the subject matter. Zevin does a good job addressing all the difficulties and fears associated with amnesia. I’m looking forward to reading more by her.

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About Amanda

Writing. Family. Books. Crochet. Fitness. Fashion. Fun. Not necessarily in that order. Note: agender (she/her).
This entry was posted in 2009, Prose, Young Adult and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, by Gabrielle Zevin

  1. Pingback: Elsewhere, by Gabrielle Zevin | The Zen Leaf

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