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Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac

3.9 217
by Gabrielle Zevin

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If Naomi had picked tails, she would have won the coin toss.
She wouldn't have had to go back for the yearbook camera, and she wouldn't have hit her head on the steps.
She wouldn't have woken up in an ambulance with amnesia.
She certainly would have remembered her boyfriend, Ace. She might even have remembered why she fell in love with him in the first


If Naomi had picked tails, she would have won the coin toss.
She wouldn't have had to go back for the yearbook camera, and she wouldn't have hit her head on the steps.
She wouldn't have woken up in an ambulance with amnesia.
She certainly would have remembered her boyfriend, Ace. She might even have remembered why she fell in love with him in the first place.
She would understand why her best friend, Will, keeps calling her "Chief." She'd get all his inside jokes, and maybe he wouldn't be so frustrated with her for forgetting things she can't possibly remember.
She'd know about her mom's new family.
She'd know about her dad's fiancée.
She wouldn't have to spend her junior year relearning all the French she supposedly knew already.
She never would have met James, the boy with the questionable past and the even fuzzier future, who tells her he once wanted to kiss her.
She wouldn't have wanted to kiss him back.
But Naomi picked heads.

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac is a 2008 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“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.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Sensitive, joyful . . . Pulled by the heart-bruising love story, readers will stop to contemplate irresistible questions.” —Booklist, Starred Review

“Zevin is just a great writer. . . . [She] gets all the details right.” —The San Francisco Chronicle

“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 that is simultaneously thought provoking and entertaining.” —Voice of Youth Advocates

“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

“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.” —The 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

In her imaginative second novel, an unusual love story, the highly acclaimed author of Elsewhere offers a unique exploration of teenage identity and self-discovery. The heroine, a teen who is forced to re-invent herself and reconstruct her life after she suffers a head injury that leaves her with a four-year memory loss, grapples with many issues teens will find familiar: romance, changing friendships, and a dysfunctional family. But this teen’s amnesia gives her the perspective to see herself and others clearly for the very first time. At times funny and always thought provoking, this tale effectively touches upon themes of chance, loss, and choice, in a moving story readers won’t soon forget.
Polly Shulman
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.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Departing from the science fiction premise of Elsewhere, Zevin cooks up an entertaining love story out of what her narrator calls "chance, gravity and a dash of head trauma." As the novel opens, 16-year-old Naomi has fallen down a flight of stairs and lost all memory of the past four years. She doesn't remember her parents' divorce (not to mention her mother's remarriage, her half-sister and her father's recent engagement to a tango dancer). Her best friend, Will, with whom she co-edits the school yearbook, and Ace, her tennis-player boyfriend, seem like strangers. What Naomi does remember is James, the first person she saw after her accident. The image of the boy-who helped her to the hospital and stayed to make sure she was all right-lingers as she tries to sort out her past and her feelings. Well-defined characters and convincing narration camouflage the Lifetime-movie premise and the inevitability of every plot turn (no one will doubt which characters will become romantically involved and who will end up together). Naomi, adopted in infancy from a Russian orphanage, can summon up more than enough hidden emotional depths to counterweight the slicker aspects of the 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. Ages 14-up. (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
VOYA - Carlisle K. Webber
When Naomi Porter realizes that she and Will Landsman, her best friend and co-editor of the yearbook, left a brand new $3,600 camera in the yearbook staff offices, they toss a coin to see who will make the trek from the school parking lot to the offices and back. Naomi loses the coin toss, and while she is walking back down the front steps of the school, she slips and falls. In desperation, she dives to save the camera. The camera survives intact, but Naomi does not. She hits her head on the steps and wakes up in an ambulance next to James Larkin, who claims to be her boyfriend. Naomi has no recollection of meeting James, nor of anything else that has happened in the last five years. Her friends and family are eager to help her get back to her life, but she is not certain that she wants to go back to being the person that everybody tells her she is. The everyday events of Naomi's life appear to be standard-issue, young-adult-novel fare but Zevin takes romance, changing friendships, and familial dysfunctions and blends them with themes of chance, loss, and choice. The result is a quiet exploration of identity and self-realization that is simultaneously thought provoking and entertaining. Subtle humor helps to balance the abundance of serious themes. Peripheral characters are quirky and endearing, and Naomi is someone whom readers will love, hate, and want to be. This book will generate discussion and pass from teen to teen.
Kirkus Reviews
Zevin constructs a unique take on the teenage question of "Who Am I?" New York City sophomore Naomi Porter must re-invent herself, re-construct her life and undergo a re-birth on her journey back from a head injury that leaves her with nine stitches and a memory loss spanning the four years since sixth grade. She struggles to adjust to her high school's caste system and to comprehend the roles of four males in her life. Ace, the tennis jock, is her forgotten boyfriend. Will, her yearbook co-editor, doubles as her best friend, and then there's the hauntingly intriguing James, her new crush. Her father, the fourth guy, loses her trust when Naomi discovers her parents are divorced and he plans to remarry. Rather than listing her many amnesia problems, Zevin deftly reveals Naomi's dilemma with concise phrasing. " ‘Hello,' I greeted myself. ‘I'm Naomi.' The girl in the mirror didn't seem convinced." This unusual love story has only a few lapses and will be well received by teens intrigued by the concept. (Fiction. YA)

Product Details

Square Fish
Publication date:
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)
720L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

“Are you Ace?” I asked, remembering what James had said about my having a boyfriend.
Will removed his black rectangular-framed glasses and wiped them on his pants, which were gray wool like James’s had been. I would later learn that removing his glasses was something Will did when embarrassed, as if not seeing something clearly could in some way distance him from an awkward situation. “No, I most definitely am not,” he said. “Ace’s about six inches taller than me. And also, he’s your boyfriend.” A second later, Will’s eyes flashed something mischievous. “Okay, so this is deeply wrong. I want it on the record that you are acknowledging that this is deeply wrong before I even say it.”
“Fine. It’s wrong,” I said.
“Deeply wrong.”
“Good.” Will nodded. “I feel so much better that you don’t remember him either. By the by, your man’s a dolt not to come.”
“Dolt?” Who used dolt?
“Tool. No offense.”
“Leave. Right now,” I said in a mock stern tone. “You go too far insulting Ace . . . What’s his last name?”
“Right. Zuckerman. Yeah, I’m really outraged about you insulting the boyfriend I don’t remember anyway.”
“You might be later and if that’s the case, I take it all back. Visiting hours only started a minute ago, so he’ll probably still come,” Will said, by way of encouragement I suppose. “If it were my girlfriend, I would have been waiting outside before visiting hours.”

Meet the Author

Gabrielle Zevin's debut novel, Elsewhere, was an ALA Notable Book and a Quills Book Award nominee. Of her writing, The New York Times Book Review said, "Zevin's touch is marvelously light even as she considers profundities." She lives in New York City.

Brief Biography

New York, New York
Date of Birth:
October 24, 1977
Place of Birth:
Poughkeepsie, New York
A.B. in English and American Literature, Harvard College, 2000

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Memoirs of A Teenage Amnesiac 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 217 reviews.
Jessi-21 More than 1 year ago
In this book, Naomi Porter falls down a flight of stairs and hits her head. After the fall, she can't remember anything since sixth grade. She can't remember her best friend, her boyfriend, or her parent's divorce. This book was definitely written in an intriguing way. From the very beginning, I was hooked. Gabrielle Zevin mixes in the perfect amount of mystery and romance throughout, and I thought that it was an enjoyable, yet thought-provoking book. The character descriptions were flawless, and I was kept guessing until the end. I wasn't sure what Zevin would bring to the story, because I was slightly disappointed with Elsewhere when I read it, but she pulled this book all off in an easy way that makes this novel a quick and easy read, but one that will not soon be forgotten.
asamum More than 1 year ago
As you would expect from the title, it is written in 1st person narrative dropping us straight into Naomi's life following an accident where she gets a nasty head injury wiping out her memory of the past few years. Only certain aspects like all her personal life yet she can still remember things like maths & science. Funny how the brain works :) The book is written in 3 sections. The 1st section is called I was. It deals with Naomi trying to piece together the type of person she was before the accident. It gives her new insight into events that have occurred within the years the is unable to remember. She is also able to look back at her previous reactions objectively which helps give her a different perspective. The 2ND section is called I Am. Where although Naomi is still unable to remember the last few years she takes the opportunity to redefine herself into the person she feels like on the inside rather than the person everyone but herself can remember. She cuts her hair, dumps her boyfriend, drops a few things at school and starts a new relationship with James, the boy who was at the accident, finds some new friends and takes a part in the drama production. Gabrielle Zevin does a wonderful job of depicting the horror that is depression within the narrative. Although we as a reader can see that the romance between Naomi and James is doomed, you can also appreciate the qualities that draw Naomi to James. At points I literally wanted to scream at Naomi to leave James as she couldn't help him and was only hurting herself. Powerful writing to inspire that sort of reaction don't you think? The 3rd section is called I Will. Although Naomi regains her memory she doesn't tell anyone for awhile afraid to fit the 2 halves of herself together, the Naomi before the accident and the Naomi she created in order to redefine herself. The narrative gives wonderful insight into the difference between how we feel about ourselves and how other people see us. As Naomi comes to terms with all the events in her life she puts into practice the new perspective she has gained and discovers true love in the process. A beautifully written book dealing with some sensitive subjects one of which is depression. Terrific music references again. A really good read :)
songofthestars91 More than 1 year ago
The moment I read the synopsis of this book in Barnes & Noble, I was hooked. The title alone was enough to kindle my curiosity, and I bought it without a second thought, in hopes that the story would captivate me as much as the cover. I chose this one as my book club novel without reading it first, and I'm sad to say that this might have been a mistake. It was not a bad book, nor was it boring. The writing was simple and delightful to read, but it was the character development that I wasn't impressed by. Sure, the main character [Naomi] grew throughout the story, but from page 200 on, I felt as if the author got tired of writing her story. Naomi just didn't seem real to me -- I couldn't relate to her at all -- and neither did her relationships with the other characters. The beginning, however, was exactly as I had hoped it would be, but towards the middle and end, I became less and less interested. I guess 3 stars will have to do, given my mixed feelings on this novel.
acsimps More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing! There is a lot of symbolism in this story as well (in the first few page you know who the love story will refer to I U typo..once you read it you will know what I mean). Will is just about the best friend that I could imagine having. He is always so understanding and always puts Naomi before himself and what he wants (obviously Naomi ). I recommend this book to all!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The idea of a teenage amnesiac is a really good idea for book. But Noami comes off as, well, pathetic and at times bratty. You would think that losing years of your memory would make you really think about your life and you would be crazed with trying to figure out who you really were. But all she cares about throughout the book is James. Don't get me wrong, I am sucker for cute romance stories, but when he leaves her at the beach for hours, shes doesn't even care. Any normal girl with reasoning would be spiting mad. Her journey in recovering her memory was boring. I only recommend to read it if you are in the mood for a quick, easy, and non-realistic book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I LOVED THIS BOOK!! When I first read the first few pages I kinda thought that it would be boring and the story would just be slow about her not remembering anything. But it was GREAT!! I love how it turned out but one thing that I didn't like too much was the ending. It was good, I still like it but I wish it would've turned out like how I thought it would be like. But it was still a very good ending and it was like it had a message to it too. :) 
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've heard from magazines and from some close friends that this book was amazing. I was so excited to read it so I had to book it online, wait a couple weeks for it to come in the library, and as soon as I heard it was in, I was STOKED. However, when I started to read it, I lost concentration and had to force myself to read it... I was dissapointed. This isn't a very good read, espeacially if you're on a 7 hour airplane ride.
Guest More than 1 year ago
the book was ok.. it started out good but later james turned out to be a mentally unstable person and the ending is very cliche. stereotypical, but it's ok.. not great, nor the best.. but an ok book to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was alright. I remember wanting to read this book so bad but when i actually got it from the library it wasnt that great. I read this awhile ago and don't really remember the names of the characters. But, i just remember being disappointed.
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
"Sometimes a girl needs to lose." In a different life, in a different story, she might have been named Nataliya or Natasha. She might have lived in Russia her whole life and never even thought of Brooklyn or yearbooks or cameras. But in this life, in this story, her name is Naomi. She was adopted by a couple in Brooklyn and--although she won't remember it for a while--she does think about yearbooks and cameras. It starts with a coin toss. If Naomi had picked tails she never would have gone back for the camera. She wouldn't have tripped on the stairs and hit her head. There would have been no ambulance and no amnesia. Naomi would remember her boyfriend and whatever it was they had in common. She'd remember the lives her parents have been living. She would remember her best friend Will and why he calls her Chief and keeps making her mix tapes. But Naomi picked heads in Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac (2007) by Gabrielle Zevin. Broken into parts titled "I Was," "I Am," and "I Will," Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac is a nuanced, thoughtful story. With Naomi's amnesia at the center of the plot, this book asks interesting questions on the ties that hold a family together and what happens when the context that makes two people friends (or more) is suddenly taken away. Elements of music, photography, and book design theory all add an artistic feel to this story that will hold special appeal for creative readers. Zevin's writing is as sharp and insightful as ever while Naomi finds herself all over again during the course of the novel. With a keen focus on Naomi's relationships as well as her romances, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac is a delightful ode to friendships as well as an unexpected love story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story is told by such an incredibly insightful narrator you completely see why she fee,s the way she dkes when she does. This book is expertly crafted and resembles puzzle peices coming in to place. Highly reccomend!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book wasn't my favorite. It started out intresting; I was inmediatly hooked. But as I read on, I was getting confused with the situations, who were talking, and I didn't have much of an imagry of what was going on. The book kind of lagged, and I was instantly bored with it. The idea of this story was brilliant, but I feel that it should have been done better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So in all the reviews it mentions how James says he is her bf right? He is just sying that so he could ride in the ambance after she fell. Her entire relationship with him isnt as sacdelius as all the reviews say.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this as research ad i was doing a charactrr study about someone who has amnesia, and i ended up enjoying it much more than i originally anticipated. Very fun read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book wasn't only fictionally realistic but very intriguing from the synopsis, the first page and to the aknowledgments at the end. Loved it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book to show how people can change so hugely. I thought that "chief" changed well i can't imagine her differently. A must read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book becasue this could happen to anyone at any second. Have you ever lost a coin toss? I have and it costed me dearly. I ended up having to leave my cozy warm bed to get my brother a glass of water. Well my coin toss wager did not end up like what fate had in store for Naomi. Naomi lost memories from the past four years forgetting her friends, and the drama created with family. We both picked heads and lost, but my loss wasn’t as big as hers. Zeven’s book has a way to gain your attention right from the start. The book makes you imagine you are there with Naomi and experiencing what she is going through. The decisions she makes have an affect on her life and her personality. I recommend this book to teens in middle school and high school, around Naomi age so they can under stand her more but my mother read this book to and she thought it was really good too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Didnt think it was as good as elsewhere but still good
Love5 More than 1 year ago
Matt and Helena you guys are very weird. But i thought this book was ok it is just like most teen books he likes her she likes him, it just get tiring reading the same type of book
hdb247 More than 1 year ago
I loved this book and i truly enjoyed stepping into the live of Naomi... i couldn't put it down well written!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read it. definitely.
QueenofFairtytales More than 1 year ago
My favorite part of this was Will. I loved the whole relationship between him and Naomi. Afterall thats the only thing I liked about her bratty character.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago