Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin
Published by Bloomsbury in 2007
My copy: Secondhand copy
When Naomi tries to piece back the fragments of the last three and a half years of her life, she discovers a lot. She has a boyfriend but can’t remember him, her mother and father are divorced, and she has forgotten that she is supposed to hate her mother. She also has a group of friends which simply doesn’t seem that attractive any more and, despite having meticulously kept a diary, she only mentioned what she ate every day in it! But it’s not all bad, because when a girl loses three and a half years she gets a chance to reinvent herself. After all, who is to say that everything has to be the same?
I absolutely loved The Stories Life of A.J. Fikry which I read earlier this year, and vowed at the time to check out more of Zevin’s novels. So stumbling across this for a mere 99p in a charity shop seemed like a sign!
I found this a really enjoyable look, which shares a lot of traits with other young adult novels. The novel was warm and humorous while dealing with a range of serious issues. Most interesting was our narrator Naomi’s memory loss – after a nasty fall she forgets the last four years of her life. While this sounds awful, in some strange ways it almost becomes a positive as Naomi is able to reinvent herself and become more like her true self.
The characters around Naomi also help to make the story feel three-dimensional. Her best friend Will is odd and quirky, and the friendship between them works really well, while having lots of ups and downs. James is the mysterious love interest in this novel, and his story was interesting and well handled too.
There was a lot going on here and lots of issues were addresses, but it never felt forced or heavy-handed and, if anything, the novel could have been longer so we find out how things pan out for all the characters, but then I think one of its strengths was that it left some loose ends and leaves the reader thinking about what might happen next. I liked that there wasn’t a soppy happy ending, and the characters were real, flawed people.