Saturday, May 30, 2009

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

Gabrielle Zevin introduces her book best when she explains that this book is “a love story. And like most love stories, this one involves chance, gravity, a dash of head trauma.”
Naomi is seventeen, the main character in the book who, most likely, up to this point in her life is enjoying high school - maybe even a bit too much. She was highly involved in yearbook, tennis, and a popular boyfriend named Ace. Wasn't Naomi getting the most out of her high school experience, feeling in control and living high school to the fullest? Or so you are left to wonder about what her experience really was before the dreaded tumble down her high school steps one day after losing a coin toss with her best friend and co-editor of the yearbook, Will, over who should go back into the building to get the yearbook’s camera. She wakes to find that the past four years of her memory have been erased and her most recent memory is from when she was about twelve.
Now, it is pretty much a roller coaster ride for Naomi in the book as she tries to remember life as she once knew it. Does she listen to those who say they are closest to her or those who do the nicest things for her? No, of course not which fits into the storyline but it does make Naomi come across, in my mind, as annoying and selfish. I found myself hoping that she would believe her best friend, Will, who was always cutting CD mixes for her to help her remember her former life through music. I wished she could realize how completely cool he was, how patient he was trying to be with her and how sweetly he was trying to help her out but, of course, she had to find her own way.
Interestingly enough, Naomi's own way comes in the form of her meeting new friends, seeing high school in an entirely new way and dealing with confusing emotions. So, it compelled me to continue reading and in the end it turned out satisfying if not a bit predictable yet how I was quietly hoping it would work out all along.
For me, another character who eerily stood out was James, who is introduced right in the beginning, as he helps Naomi in the ambulance after her fall but she knows nothing about him. He significantly reminded me of a friend I knew in high school.

Here are two of my favorite quotes from the book:

"Love stories are written in millimeters and milliseconds with a fast, dull pencil whose marks you can barely see, they are written in miles and eons with a chisel on the side of a mountiantop"

“Dad nodded and patted me on the hand, and then he read my mind. You forget all of it anyway. First, you forget everything you learned — the dates of the Hay-Herran Treaty and the Pythagorean theorem. You especially forget everything you didn’t really learn, but just memorized the night before. You forget the names of all but one or two of your teachers, and eventually you’ll forget those, too. You forget your junior-year class schedule and where you used to sit and your best friend’s home phone number. ... You forget all of them. Even the ones you said you loved, and even the ones you actually did. They’re the last to go. And then once you’ve forgotten enough, you love someone else."

Overall, I enjoyed the themes that pronounced themselves with a feel of "it's complicated" within the book of memory, loss, and love. I also really liked how Zevin interwove literary and musical references in the book. It curiously impelled me to look up the lyrics to the Beatle's song I Will, the poem by Emily Dickinson called I'm a Nobody, Who are you? and it really added to the fun experience of reading this book. Now, I look forward to reading more from Gabrielle Zevin.
Here's a link to Amanda's perceptive review.

288 pages, published August 2007, My rating: 4 stars


Amanda said...

Thanks for the link to the Beetles song, I hadn't read the lyrics yet and I'm not familiar with the song. It really does fit the theme perfectly.

Julie said...

Very welcome! I'm glad you think the lyrics fit too.

L said...

A love story with a dash of head trauma - sounds like a good one to me. For some reason I always thought this book was non-fiction. I'm guessing from your review it's not. Good premise though.

Amanda said...

Oh no, definitely fiction.