Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, by Gabrielle Zevin

I’ve had this book on my to-read list for quite some time, ever since I first saw the title and read the blurb. Sounds like an intriguing premise, doesn’t it? A book narrated by a character who, due to a head injury, can’t remember the most recent four years of her life. Sign me up now!

The book has a great set-up. Narrator Naomi Porter, co-editor of her high school yearbook, runs back into the school to get a camera she and her best friend and co-editor Will left inside, and on the way out, she falls down the stairs, hits her head, and ends up in the hospital with amnesia.

She doesn’t remember her boyfriend Ace, and how they played for the school tennis team together. She doesn’t remember why she likes being on the yearbook staff or why Will calls her “Chief”. She doesn’t remember why her parents got divorced—or even that they got divorced in the first place—and she certainly doesn’t remember that her mother has remarried and has a young daughter.

The start of the book, as Naomi is recovering in the hospital and starting back up in school, is fantastic. Because the book is narrated in first-person point of view, Naomi’s confusion really comes through. She didn’t understand Ace’s sweet gesture of giving her tennis wristbands. She didn’t understand Will’s affinity for making mix CDs. She was intrigued by the new kid James, who happened to be on the scene when she fell and called the ambulance for her. And I was really excited about where the book was headed.

But as I kept reading, it fell short of the expectations I had for it.

The book turned into a pretty standard love polygon between Naomi and the three boys, and that’s where I had my issues with it. Her boyfriend Ace seemed like an okay guy—until his primary concern about his girlfriend going through this trauma is when they’re going to have sex again. She starts a relationship with new boy James, who has a challenging past, and the book focuses so much on him that Naomi starts making really poor decisions. And finally, it’s clear that her best friend Will has strong feelings for her, but she brushes him off for a good chunk of the book.

Because the book spent so much time on the romance, Naomi’s journey wasn’t what I had hoped. The book doesn’t delve much into who Naomi was before she lost her memory. A far more interesting story would have been Naomi learning that she wasn’t that nice a person before the accident and used the loss of memory to atone and become a better person with friends and family. There was some of that with her mother, but not enough, given the circumstances of the divorce.

There were a few instances of her using her lack of recent memory to try new things, like trying out for the school play. I liked that, and it made the start of her relationship with James believable. But there weren’t enough positive examples of new things. I had no problem with some of these new things rubbing old friends the wrong way, but Naomi became too mean and codependent, which was against what I thought the story would be. This made Naomi less likeable as the book progressed, and thus, any personal growth she had by the end didn’t seem organic to me.

It’s not a badly written book, and as I’ve said, I truly enjoyed about the first third of the story. It just wasn’t what I thought it would be, so it fell short of my expectations. As much as I wanted to read it upon learning of it, in the end, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac gets an unmemorable THREE STARS.

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Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac is available at Amazon.

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