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Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac
b
y Gabrielle Zevin

Publishing Information: Farra, Straus, and Giroux: New York, 2007
ISBN: 9780374349462 / 9780739361306 (Audio)
Pages
: 288 p.
Ages: 13 & Up

Summary:
When Naomi loses a coin toss, she actually loses much more. On her way back to the school yearbook office to grab a camera that was left behind, Naomi trips and falls down the stairs, hitting her head. When she wakes up in an ambulance, Naomi has no memory of her life from the past five years. On her path to recovery, Naomi learns about her life, and what she learns makes her wonder if she really wants to regain all those memories. Her divorced parents, questionable relationship and deeper desires force Naomi to question who she was and who she wants to become.

Book Talk:
At the end of the summer, right before school opens, Naomi takes a header down the steps and loses not just her balance, but her memory as well. She wakes up in the hospital to discover her cognitive skills are normal, but she remembers nothing about the last four years of her life. And a lot has happened in those four years! All of seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth grades are a complete blank. Naomi learns some things about herself from her best friend, Will. (The two of them are the dedicated co-editors of the school yearbook.) Will informs Naomi that she has a steady boyfriend named Ace, who’s a star tennis player. But even when she sees the handsome Ace, Naomi doesn’t remember him, or anything about their relationship. When she gets home from the hospital, Naomi goes through her room to find things that will help her piece together her past. In her nightstand drawer she finds birth control pills. Yikes! What could that mean? She also finds a diary, which unfortunately turns out to be a food diary. A food diary?! Naomi wonders what sort of person keeps a diary of everything they’ve eaten over the past six months? She begins to question the person she was before her accident. If you’ve ever entertained the idea of being able to have a “do over” in life, you’ll enjoy Naomi’s unique situation as she gets reacquainted with herself and begins to create a new future.

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Accidents
Amnesiacs
Divorce
Friendships
Memory

Awards & Reviews:
YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 2008

Booklist, September 1, 2007 (Starred Review)
Horn Book
, September 1, 2007
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2007
Publishers Weekly, August 6, 2007, p. 190
School Library Journal
, October 1, 2007, p. 168
VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates, October 1, 2007


Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. Naomi suffers from amnesia after falling and hitting her head. What is amnesia? What causes it? How can it be treated?
  2. When Naomi realizes that her parents had a very nasty divorce, her attitude towards them after her accident is very different than her attitude towards them before her accident. In a situation like Naomi’s with her parents, is it possible to forgive and forget?
  3. When Naomi cuts her hair, she says “…I felt like I was getting rid of someone’s expectation of me…It was the end of normal. The girl in the yearbook would never have had short hair.” How do you think she was feeling about her “former” self at that point? What does her haircut signify?
  4. Naomi’s boyfriend may not be the best guy for her, but he is a jock and is popular in school. How important is it to be popular in high school? Is it worth being with the wrong person if it means a higher social status?
  5. Naomi seems to be very much like two different people: The Naomi before the accident, and the Naomi after the accident. Do you think it’s possible to reinvent yourself? What would you lose or gain in the process?
  6. When Naomi starts from scratch and gets to know her friend Will all over again, she starts to notice more about him, and possibly falls in love. What do you think Naomi noticed about Will that she hadn’t noticed before? What do you think she liked about Will that she didn’t have with her boyfriend?
  7. When Naomi first gets back home, she finds her old food journal. She says, “I felt disgusting. I mean, really, what kind of person keeps a food diary?” Is there anything about your life right now that you might have a similar reaction to if you looked at it from a stranger’s perspective?
  8. Do you think it’s reckless of Naomi to get involved with someone like James? Why do you think Naomi is drawn to James, given how different he is from Ace and Will?
  9. If the past were a blank slate, what would you become? (Booklist)
  10. Does the search for one's truest identity necessarily mean rejecting all that has gone before? (Booklist)

Related Websites:
Author’s website: http://www.memoirsofa.com

Mayo Clinic:  http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/amnesia/DS01041/DSECTION=1

Daily Strength Amnesia Support Group: http://dailystrength.org/c/Amnesia/support-group

Encarta: http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761578303/Memory_(psychology).html

Traumatic Brain Injury Facts: http://www.tbitac.nashia.org/tbics/download/children.pdf

Read-a-Likes:
The Dark Garden by Margaret Buffie, 1997
Fake ID by Walter Sorrells, 2005 (2007 RITBA Nominee)
Jacob's Ladder by Brian Keaney, 2007
Kat Got Your Tongue by Lee Weatherly,
Realtime Interrupt by James P. Hogan, 1995
Tom Finder by Martine Leavitt., 2003
Trigger by Susan Vaught, 2006 (2009 RITBA Nominee)

Other Books by the Author:
Margarettown, 2005
Elsewhere, 2005

About the Author:
Gabrielle Zevin was born in New York in 1977. Since graduating from Harvard University in 2000, she has worked as a screenwriter. Several of her screenplays have been optioned and one, Conversations with Other Women, was recently produced. For her work on the film, Gabrielle was nominated for a 2007 Independent Spirit Award. She has written three novels: Margarettown, Elsewhere, and Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac.

Margarettown  was a selection of the Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers program, a BookSense Notable, and has been optioned for movies by This is That (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Among other honors, Elsewhere was nominated for a 2006 Quill Award and won the Borders Original Voices Award. Of the book, The New York Times wrote, “Every so often a book comes along with a premise so fresh and arresting it seems to exist in a category all its own...."Elsewhere," by Gabrielle Zevin, is such a book.” Elsewhere has been translated into seventeen languages.

Gabrielle usually lives in New York City. She has one dog, a peculiarly expressive, eight year old pug named Mrs. DeWinter. (From the author’s website)

| ©2004 - Rhode Island Teen Book Award Committee | Aaron Coutu, Chair