Cover of Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, with the title written out over white keyboard keys against a black background

About the Book

Title: Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac
Published: 2007
Swoonworthy Scale: 8

BFF Charm: Yay!
Talky Talk: Right On
Bonus Factors: Duckie, Mysterious Loner Dude
Relationship Status: Engaged

Fun fact: This review was the first ever post on Forever Young Adult!

The Deal:

Naomi Porter, high school junior, yearbook editor, and superstar tennis player, falls down the front steps of her high school and, as if falling in a public place isn’t mortifying enough, hits her head and loses the past four years of her memory. Um, I know, right?!! That is a crazytown injury. ANYWAY the accident forces Naomi to rebuild her identity and discover her true passions while dealing with a broken family, a best friend she no longer knows, and a mysterious boy she wishes she knew better.

This book pretty much had me at “traumatic head injury.” Gabrielle Zevin masterfully transforms a unique if kitschy premise into an intensely compelling exploration of identity.

BFF Charm: YAY!

Yay BFF Charm

I have to give major props to Naomi Porter. I mean, the girl loses the last four years of her memory, yet she remains a pretty cool customer. I, on the other hand, would TOTALLY FREAK OUT and stare at old pictures all day (except the ones with bad hair, cos I’m all about embracing the silver lining of amnesia). Forced to deal with some heartbreaking “new” memories, Naomi forges on in search of her true self. She’s popular, but does she like being popular? She’s got a nice boyfriend, but what if she doesn’t want to kiss him anymore? She’s a fantastic tennis player, but what if she wants to try out for a play? Naomi isn’t afraid of shattering everyone’s expectations of who she should be, and I adore that quality in a best friend!

Swoonworthy Scale: 8

Um, so, I fell in love with James Larkin (Naomi’s romantic interest) about FOUR PAGES INTO THE BOOK. Good LORD, the CHEMISTRY!!! There were times when I really thought the pages might burst into flames between my fingers. Zevin is a master at creating gorgeously painful tension that builds and builds until I THOUGHT I MIGHT DIE IF THEY DID NOT FREAKING KISS ALREADY. The uncertainty that Naomi feels about James (Is he a player? Is he too cool for school? Is he just a big jerkface?) tinges their growing relationship with real honesty while Zevin deftly avoids common YA cliches. It’s rare for books in this genre to have all of the hotness with none of the cheese, and Amnesiac is a shining example of how to portray teen romance in a legitimate, raw, and completely compelling fashion.

Talky Talk: Right On

Naomi’s voice is so real, so achingly honest, that I wanted to give her a hug like every ten minutes. And it’s not just Naomi–every character in this book feels authentic, including the parents, who are typically afterthoughts in many YA books. I loved the banter between Naomi and her best friend, Will; Zevin peppers their conversations with charm and flavor without ever trying too hard.

Bonus Factor: Duckie

Duckie, from Pretty in Pink, wearing a hat, round sunglasses, a vest, jacket, and bolo tie

Speaking of Will, LOVE HIM. SO MUCH. GAHHH!!!!! Will Landsmen is pretty much your dream type of guy friend. Like Duckie, he’s got fantastic fashion sense, a colorful personality, and a total crush on Naomi. Unlike Duckie, he’s totally not annoying. Instead, Will’s sweet, thoughtful, clever and (my favorite part) calls Naomi “Chief” (they are co-editors-in-chief of the yearbook together). In fact, now I kinda want to take back my BFF charm from Naomi and give it to Will cos J’ADORE!!!

Bonus Factor: Mysterious Loner Dude

Jordan Catalano, a hot brooding stoner, in My So-Called Life

Ok so I know I just gushed on and on about how much I love Will but… um… if I were Naomi, I would totally go for James Larkin, the super hot and mysterious boy who discovers her immediately after her amnesia-inducing fall. Y’all, girls suck! I know! We will always choose the Jordan Catalano over the Brian Krakow!!! It’s like in our DNA! ANYWAY. Once again, Zevin takes an idea that could be an easy, flat cliché (loner dude) and creates a complex and heartbreaking (gah!) character. Like Naomi, I felt absolutely mesmerized by James, even as his faults slowly revealed themselves. It is SO refreshing to get to know a dark and brooding character that turns out NOT to be 1) perfect 2) a vampire 3) an immortal 4) all of the above. THANK YOU GABRIELLE.

Relationship Status: Engaged

I can definitely see myself spending more time with this book in the future, but I’m not quite ready to take the marriage plunge. I mean, I love Naomi’s search for identity, I love Will and James, I love all of the ideas of “self” and “image” woven into the book. but… well, I’m about to get a little spoilery, so if you haven’t read the book yet, you might want to stop now…

Seriously, I’m about to spoil something really huge…

Are you sure you want to keep reading? I mean, it’s just my opinion! You might totally disagree (and if you do, I hope you’ll leave a comment!).

So… yeah. The whole Naomi and James break-up? All of that felt real–except for the aftermath. Girlfriend gets over him in, like, what, three months? REALLY?!! After flying across the country for him and wondering if he was going to commit suicide?!!! Ok, I realize this is high school and young hearts can heal fast but seriously, I found this plot point to be really unbelievable. Which sucks, cos Zevin really kept me with her through the whole story–I was THERE, living and breathing it, until Naomi was like, “Well, so it goes! Now, onto Will!” Of course, having Will around would help out any broken heart, and I’m obvs REALLY HAPPY that they ended up together, but yeah. It just felt totally false to me.

But, since that’s my only complaint, I will go ahead and say “Yes”! Now get off your knee and kiss me, you sweet book!

FTC Full Disclosure: I checked out this book from the library. I received neither cocktails nor compensation in exchange for this review.

Sarah lives in Austin, and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.