Friday, May 28, 2010
Book Review: Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, by Gabrielle Zevin
Trailer for the Japanese film of Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, I only know about six words in Japanese (Ichi, ni, san, shi, konnichiwa, and moshimoshi - one, two, three, four, hello, and hello-on-the-phone) plus some titles, but it looks pretty.
When Naomi Porter wakes up in hospital, having fallen down the front steps of her high school, the last thing she remembers is James Larkin accompanying her in the ambulance, telling the staff that he was her boyfriend. She remembers nothing from the last four years, but she knows she isn't twelve any more, and James quickly tells her that he is not, in fact, her boyfriend. In fact, they aren't even friends. But Naomi doesn't remember any of her real friends. She doesn't remember her parents splitting up, or her half-sister, Chloe. She doesn't remember the meaning behind the songs her best friend, Will, puts on mix CDs for her. She can't remember why she liked her boyfriend Ace, why she chose any of her hobbies, or why she wrote about her weight and the food she ate in her diary.
But life must go on, and Naomi has to learn how to live as the girl she is now, and struggle against all the things that other people expect her to be - the same girl as before, an invalid, a mysterious blank slate. Naomi finds that she doesn't remember why she hates her mum and her dad's new girlfriend, Rosa Rivera - and when she finds out, she doesn't feel it. She doesn't want to work on the yearbook any more, she wants to join the drama group, and she wants to split up with Ace - and date James instead.
When I picked up this book I was intrigued by the memory-loss plotline, but having read and watched several fictional depictions of amnesia that just didn't ring true, I was prepared for the worst!.I am delighted to say that I was absorbed from start to finish - Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac is just stunning. It ticks all the boxes: avoiding cliché, making Naomi's amnesia believable, strong characterisation, poignant scenes, humour, moments of confusion and panic brilliantly captured, twists, turns, and an ending which isn't quite expected, but makes perfect sense. This was one of the precious few books that I read last year that I found hard to put down.
After reading it I had to rush out and read Gabrielle Zevin's other YA novel, Elsewhere, which I enjoyed but unfortunately not as much as I did Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac. I will give it a proper review of its own, but essentially my problem with Elsewhere was that it seemed to be pitched for younger readers, there wasn't anything wrong with it, the concept is fantastic, I just couldn't engage with it in the same way as I did with Memoirs. I wonder if I'll like Gabrielle Zevin's adult books better. The Japanese film adaptation of Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac is out now in Japan, entitled Dareka ga Watashi ni Kissu wo Shita, which means "Someone Kissed Me", fingers crossed it comes out here at some point!
You can read an excerpt from this book or listen to a clip from the audio book here.