A girl named Naomi loses a coin toss that changes her life. That coin toss leads her to the steps of her school, where she falls, hits her head, and loses the memory of everything that’s happened over the last four years. This is an excellent realistic fiction story with an unusual twist, and it’s a great choice for reading and discussing afterwards. Gabrielle Zevin is probably better known for her “what happens after death” novel Elsewhere, which is also an excellent read. But Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac has a special place in my heart because I really liked Naomi and I appreciated the difficulty of the choices she had to make about how she was going to treat and interact with her family and friends from this point forward. And hey, who HASN’T wished that they could rewind their lives and make different choices than they did before?
Side note: when I was googling information on the title and author in order to write this post, I discovered that this book had been made into a movie, which was a complete surprise to me. I panicked because, as I mentioned in an earlier episode, when a book is made into a movie that’s usually the death knell for my booktalk of that title. But it turns out that it’s a Japanese film (!!!) that hasn’t been released in the United States yet. So I can still keep this booktalk in my repertoire, at least for a little while longer.
When Naomi Porter was sixteen years old she fell down the steps in front of her school. She woke up in an ambulance with a boy named James who said he was her boyfriend, although she didn’t recognize him. When the EMTs, the hospital staff, and later her father started questioning her, Naomi learned that there was a huge gap in her memory — a gap that lasted four years. The last memories she had were when she was twelve years old … and then nothing until the moment she saw James looking down at her. The more Naomi talked to her family and her friends, the more she realized that a lot had changed in four years. She didn’t remember her parents’ divorce. She didn’t remember wearing braces. She didn’t remember that she and her father had moved to a new house, or that she hated her mother and her mother’s new family. She didn’t remember her best friend Will, or all the French she ever studied, or even how to drive. She didn’t remember her boyfriend, who was NOT James by the way. Naomi’s real boyfriend was a boy named Ace, who was away at tennis camp at the time of her accident. When she came home from the hospital and entered her bedroom, it was like looking at a stranger’s room. She opened all the closets and drawers to try to learn more about the person who lived here. The person she had become over the last four years. Everything was strange to her: the clothes, the food diary, the birth control pills, and even the girl she saw in the mirror.
Going back to school was strange, too. The kids she remembered as friends when she was twelve weren’t her friends any more. And now she sat at the popular kids table in the cafeteria, but she didn’t know why. And Ace? He was an even bigger problem. Especially when she met him (for what felt like the first time) when he climbed in through her bedroom window and kissed her (for what felt like the first time). And kissing Ace felt like kissing a total stranger. It’s going to take Naomi a while to understand what kind of person she was … and what kind of person she wants to be. Losing her memory might be one of the worst things that’s ever happened to her, but it also might be one of the best.