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Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac: A Novel Hardcover – August 21, 2007

4.1 out of 5 stars 106 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Contemporary realism, set askew, is the silver streak of Zevin, whose Elsewhere (2005) depicted a teen's experiences in the afterlife. This equally sensitive, joyful novel, her second for YAs, tackles the slippery nature of human identity, deceptively tucked within a plot familiar from TV soaps. After high-school junior Naomi conks her head, she can't remember anything that happened since sixth grade. She is by turns mystified and startled by evidence of her present life, from the birth-control pills in her bedside table to her parents' astonishing, rancorous split. Eventually, the memories return, leaving Naomi questioning the basis of a new, intense romance, and wondering which of her two lives, present or former, represents her most authentic self. The amnesia device could have been more convincingly played, but Zevin writes revealingly about emotions and relationships. Especially vivid is the Hepburn-Tracy bond Naomi shares with yearbook co-chief Will, whom she wounds with her lurching self-reinvention even as she discovers deeper feelings: "I had thought the way I felt about Will was just a room, but it had turned out to be a mansion." Pulled by the heart-bruising love story, readers will pause to contemplate irresistible questions: If the past were a blank slate, what would you become? Does the search for one's truest identity necessarily mean rejecting all that has gone before? Mattson, Jennifer


Zevin is completely convincing on the intensity of early passion and the way it can evaporate in the rays of something new, and she has a light touch with the deceptively shallow anguish of adolescence. (New York Times Book Review)

Zevin is just a great writer. . . . [She] gets all the details right. (The San Francisco Chronicle)

Sensitive, joyful . . . Pulled by the heart-bruising love story, readers will stop to contemplate irresistible questions. (Starred, Booklist)

A quiet exploration of identity and self-realization that is simultaneously thought provoking and entertaining. (VOYA)

Unique . . . Will be well received by teens. (Kirkus Reviews)

Honest and complex characterization grounds a thoughtful, suspenseful examination of memory and identity. (The Horn Book)

Zevin cooks up an entertaining love story . . . teens will identify with her vulnerability and her heightened feelings of alienation. And fans of psychological dramas won't want to put this book down. (Publishers Weekly)

A compelling read with intelligent dialogue that's also touching and funny. (School Library Journal)

I would definitely recommend this book to my high school students, especially teen girls. (The ALAN Review)

Zevin blends romance, changing friendships, and familial dysfunction with themes of chance, loss, and choice, and the result is a quiet exploration of identity and self-realization. (VOYA)

A good read. (Kathy Taber, Kids Ink Children's Bookstore, Indianapolis, IN)

This book seems to be really accurate about how teens think . . . very refreshing and a great read! (A YALSA YA Galley Teen Reader)

Zevin, already a great author, has outdone herself. (A YALSA YA Galley Teen Reader)

Zevin is a smooth and subtle stylist, creating particularly interesting characters here. (Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books)

This was a memorable book. Naomi was a likable, realistic character. (A YALSA YA Galley Teen Reader)

This book was hard to put down. (A YALSA YA Galley Teen Reader)

It conveys a sense of normal teenage pressures, but also presents a unique story. (A YALSA YA Galley Teen Reader)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); First Edition edition (August 21, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374349460
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374349462
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,159,349 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"The first thing he did was kiss me. On the lips. And he didn't ask my permission either.
"I couldn't recall him ever having kissed me before.
"I actually couldn't recall anyone ever having kissed me before.
"So, in a way, this was my first kiss."

It's summertime, but Naomi Page Porter had been at school, meeting with her best friend. The pair are the incoming co-editors of their high school's award-winning yearbook. Remembering, belatedly, that they'd left the school's $4,000 camera sitting out, Naomi had gone back into the school to grab it. Running out, she had tripped on the steps. Fortunately, Naomi saved the camera. Unfortunately, she had landed on her head.

MEMOIRS OF A TEENAGE AMNESIAC begins with Naomi regaining consciousness on the way to the hospital. She is released after an extended stay. Fortunately, her cognitive skills are perfectly normal. Unfortunately, she does not remember any personal information from the past four years. Naomi doesn't recall such major changes in her life as the development of her body, the messy divorce of her parents, her moving to a new house with her father, that her mother has since had another daughter, her experiences in high school, her friends or, even, whether she has a boyfriend.

Naomi is, thus, in the unique and bizarre position of examining her own life from the point of view of a complete outsider.

"I went through the drawers of my nightstand. The most interesting thing I found was a plastic compact containing birth control pills, which meant I was either a) having sex with someone (!?!), or b) on the pill for some other reason. The second most interesting thing I found was a leather diary.
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By KC on November 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Gabrielle Zevin avoids the sophomore jinx with this follow-up to the oft-read ELSEWHERE that surpasses her first novel in both depth and sophistication. As stated in the book's first words, this is a love story -- in fact, a love triangle with a twist (only I forget what the twist IS... no, wait a minute -- it's amnesia).

Naomi Porter takes a spill on the high school steps, hits her noggin on marble, and forgets everything after sixth grade. That's right, she's forgotten her divorced parents, her half-sister, even her jock boyfriend, Ace Zuckerman. To further cloud the issue, she awakens to a letter from one Will Landsman -- a kid who says he's her best friend and her high school yearbook co-editor. To complete the three-point confusion, there's this dark and handsome kid named James Larkin waiting by her side in the hospital. All a blank.

The three boys will not remain a blank, however, as each plays a big role during her recuperation period. She continues to date her tennis jock boyfriend, Ace, but falls for the artistic and moody one, James. Meanwhile, there is the voice of conscience, the faithful-as-a-golden retriever Will, coaching her every misstep of the way. A veritable Bermuda triangle of boyfriends -- the sort of thing that confuses girls with a memory, never mind those without.

I was a bit disappointed that this novel didn't explore issues of memory that have to do with judging people, because Zevin touches on this topic when she has her protagonist ask another girl, "Do we like each other? Do we get along?" The girl, who had been kind to the amnesiac hero, responds, "Not since fourth grade.
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Format: Hardcover
It's a great thing to get to know a character as you read about them in a book. It's a phenomenal thing to get to know a character as they get to know themselves.

Such is the case in this book, "Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac", written by Gabrielle Zevin, a writer who has a rare talent. The protagonist, a teenager named Naomi, becomes a victim of (as the title says) amnesia, following an unlucky even involving a camera, coffee, and steps. Naomi, even without her memories, is a fully fleshed out character, making it a joy to see her explore the newness of a life that was once so commonplace to her, to see everything she does different, to see how her amnesia changes every single relationship in her teenage life.

The story is well-crafted in that its structure mirrors life more than the rising action model of a story. Some plot lines climax, and some just fade away like a forgotten memory; which, by the way, is a large theme in this story. What we have here is not the definitive life story of Naomi Porter, but simply a year in the life of a likable, complex, and flawed character who is going through a rough--yet she's not at all angsty/brooding about it--time. Nothing in this book is forced, though the touching and relatable moments are as plenty as usage of magic in a Harry Potter book.

Much like Zevin's previous novel, "Elsewhere", this book has a permanent place on my small shelf of favorites. However, unlike "Elsewhere", I was so swept up in the story that this book has become the first novel in God-knows-how-long that I finished in a single day. This is a book that a reader can truly, truly love.

10/10 Classic.
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