I really fell for Gabrielle Zevin’s first book Elsewhere so even though her second novel, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, had a plot seemingly plucked straight from a soap opera, I didn’t hesitate to pick it up.
This book is a far departure from Elsewhere’s science fiction premise. 16-year-old Naomi falls on the front steps of her school one evening and when she wakes up, she can’t remember the last four years of her life. Another teenager, James, discovered her on the steps and accompanies her in the ambulance to the hospital. Naomi is disappointed to discover that athletic Ace is her boyfriend, not James. In fact, there are a lot of things that surprise her about how her life has changed since sixth grade, like her parents’ divorce and the birth control pills in her nightstand drawer.
While the premise of amnesia may seem a little too cheesy, and the crush on a dangerous boy was also a little too soap opera for me (I could have done without James in the novel at all because I don't really get the bad boy appeal), the reader really connects to Naomi’s experience and can’t help but ask themselves if they would be happy with who they’ve become if they were in Naomi’s situation. Would you be happy with your friends or would you wonder why you chose them? Would you love the things you’d committed yourself too, like the yearbook and playing tennis, or would you take the opportunity to go in a different direction? When your memory of the last four years comes back, would you be happy with most of it or would you want to try to permanently forget it?
Zevin created a believable teenager’s voice in Naomi and I hypothesize that most teens who pick up the book will be able to predict most of the plot, but they will still enjoy the novel. It’s not as fresh and Elsewhere, but it’s still thought provoking.