Thursday, August 13, 2009

Book Review: Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac

Title Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac
Author Gabrielle Zevin
Genre YA Literary Fiction
Rating B-

Summary If Naomi hadn't fallen on the steps outside of her high school and smacker her head, her whole life would have been different. She wouldn't have to re-learn secrets about her family, figure out why she's friends with the people that she's friends with, why she's dating one guy and dying to kiss another guy.

First Line "If things had been different, I'd be called Nataliya or Natasha, and I'd have a Russian accent and chapped lips year round."

Review This book made me laugh out loud. Hard. To the point that I actually might have passed gas when I was laughing. It's that funny. The premise and the set-up of this book was quirky and charming, the protagonist was only moderately irritating--but then again, she was irritated at her life as she had to re-learn even the most simple of tasks--and some other characters were really engaging. Good things all around.

The only big hang-ups for me were in the character and storyline surrounding the mysterious "other guy," James. I kind of liked this character, but the author actually made him, in my opinion, a little too different, a little too much of a bad boy, and the final event before the splitting of their relationship required me to completely suspend disbelief. Suspending reality is pretty common in reading, some genres more than others, but commercial and literary YA fiction rarely require you to completely throw reality out the window. Without going into too much detail that will ruin the events of this (more often than not) really great book, it's just too far fetched and reduced the love-ability of this book in my opinion.

The other problems were that part-way through the book, the narrator develops a secret and I think she holds on to the secret too long--another hit to believability--and I saw the final resolution coming about 75 pages before the ending. (Still read on though, so that's a testimony to the author's humor.)

That being said, I'm going to hang onto this book, I'll probably re-read and recommend to tons of people--the theme of "finding yourself" wrapped up in this funny/charming novel is captivating and worth reading. Go into this book knowing that it's not entirely perfect, but it'll definitely get some laughs.

I'll leave you with a funny bit [The First Time She's "Reintroduced" to her Boyfriend] for your digestion. (For reference, this wasn't the passage that made me fart with laughter):

"'Here, I brought you something. I was at the camp Pro Shop, and I guess these reminded me of you.' He took a pair of white terry cloth tennis wristbands out of his pocket.
I wondered what about me screamed tennis sweatbands to him. Had he meant it as a joke? I could tell by his mouth--a think pink line of determined patience and anticipation--that he hadn't.
It certainly wasn't the most romantic gift ever, but you know, it was obvious the guy meant well, so I put the wristbands on.
'Looks nice,' he said. 'With your, um, pajamas.'" (p. 50).

Recommendation Fans of smart YA fiction (that can read through a few sticky points and obvious plot points coming from far away). Also, anybody who likes their literature with a laugh.

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