Kat Alexander's Reviews > Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin
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Jun 03, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: read-2010, reviewed
Recommended for: Wrimos
Read in November, 2010

If Naomi had picked tails, she would have won the coin toss. She would have had to go inside to fetch the camera. She wouldn't have fallen down the stairs. She wouldn't have hit her head. She wouldn't have lost six years of memory. She would know who her best friend is, why he calls her Chief, why she spends hours a day working to produce the school's yearbook. She would know who her boyfriend is and why she's dating him to begin with. She would know her parents are divorced, each with a new, growing family.
But Naomi picked heads, and now she's got a clean slate... right?

This is the second novel I've read by this author, and while it didn't disappoint me as much as the first, I'm still not completely convinced I'm all that into her writing.

Yes, it's a fantastic premise. Same with Elsewhere . The characters are smart and witty. I adore Will. I definitely enjoyed all of the first part.

And then... well, then it gets a little bit sketchy.

See, here's the thing--this book, just like Elsewhere doesn't follow the expected path. Not in that nice, pleasant "Oh look, plot twist!" sort of way, exactly, more in the "And how exactly does that stay within the precedent for this character?" and "Wait, that just isn't physically possible, is it?" sort of way.

And then just for a little bit more annoyance, I can't talk about any of it without some serious spoilers that would ruin the part of the book I actually enjoyed...

First off, I'm trying to find where exactly the book went sour, and it's giving me a bit of trouble as in the under ten days it's been since I -cough- actually read it, it got stuck in my head that the breaks between the three parts ("I Was", "I Am", "I Will Be") were at nice intervals following specific plot events. And the first break does make sense, but the second, not as much.

There's a plot event, a rather important one, that takes place in one of the parts that serves as a much bigger turning point. It's a spoiler. Skip to the next line if you don't want to see it. Now. Scroll. Do it.
Spoiler alert: Naomi gets her memory back.

That bit you just skipped if you didn't want to read it is from now on going to be referred to as That One Thing, or TOT.

Anyway, pre-TOT, it all seemed to be working out pretty well. Naomi'd lost her memory. Well, that sucks. Six years, gone in a flash. We the people never see pre-Naomi, which is good, as Naomi herself doesn't really see pre-Naomi. She travels through time as she is now, not as she's been, because she doesn't bloody know who she was. Nor does she know anyone else, or how she talked or thought. It comes as a bit of a surprise to find a packet of birth control pills in her bedside table--where'd those come from?

There's Coach Will through it all. Not a real Coach, of course, but instead Naomi's best friend from yearbook. He says he'll never lie, and he never does. He's a very good informant, assuming Naomi knows what to ask.

Funny thing, though, she never really does. Understandable, of course. Now, you'd think she might listen to him essentially hating James, but whatever, right? Naomi is Strong, Independent Female Character. I like pre-TOT Naomi. She makes sense. It's interesting, as she tries to live up to the clean slate everyone's telling her she's been given while in reality, she's got to work for it, fighting against the ghost of herself she doesn't know.

And then TOT happens, and it just doesn't seem as genuine anymore. I mean, this should be one of the biggest events of the book, yes? It's not. At all. She pretends it doesn't exist, barely mentions it, and no-one else questions it.

Then James gets irritating, Naomi gets irritating surrounding the issue of James, and Will gets altogether more predictable than he needs to be.

Overall, it isn't bad, just not as good as I'd hoped. I'd recommend reading it for the creativity, but don't get too bogged down in it, and don't expect it to blow you away.
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