Published: August 2007
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
If Naomi had picked tails, she would have won the coin toss. She wouldn't have had to go back for the yearbook camera, and she wouldn't have hit her head on the steps. She wouldn't have woken up in an ambulance with amnesia. She certainly would have remembered her boyfriend, Ace. She might even have remembered why she fell in love with him in the first place. She would understand why her best friend, Will, keeps calling her "Chief." She'd know about her mom's new family. She'd know about her dad's fiancée. She never would have met James, the boy with the questionable past and the even fuzzier future, who tells her he once wanted to kiss her. She wouldn't have wanted to kiss him back.
But Naomi picked heads.
I finally admit that I judge books by their covers. I do and I did in the case of Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, which I find really strange since even now I'm not exactly sure what it is about this cover that I like. Maybe it's because it's one of the few female geared books I've seen recently without a long haired girl on the front. But I did judge it worthy of a read, even without actually reading the blurb. I mean the title is a bit self explanatory, isn't it?
Zevin has a great sense of pacing, and I really felt that just as I was getting a bit tired of something, she moved the story forward. There seemed to be three separate stories going on for Naomi. There's her missing memories of her family, which is pretty much the exact opposite of what little life she can remember. It's heartbreaking to feel her going through her parents divorce, mom's remarriage and the birth of a baby sister instantly. The second story involves her friendship with Will. I felt that there was a bit too much obviousness to this, but it didn't feel forced. She makes choices that Will doesn't understand, but she still makes them. I liked that she didn't give in just because he kept saying she never would have done that.
The third story was about her discovery of James. This is the story line that really drew me in. There was an honesty to James that I felt Naomi wanted to have herself, yet was scared to. Even thought she was completely redefining herself, she was doing it more just to not be what everyone else kept telling her she was. James new what he was and was attempting to make real changes, even if he was more messed up than Naomi was.
On story alone I would have given this a five, but I found that a lot of the dialogue felt off. For the first two chapters I kept thinking the book was taking place in England, and even throughout the rest of the book the idea kept coming back to me. Maybe people on the East coast really do talk that way, but I just didn't feel like the vocabulary was natural for American teens (when was the last time you heard a seventeen-year-old boy refer to another as a chap?). I will however definitely look for more from Zevin.