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.
After her remarkable debut, Gabrielle Zevin has crafted an imaginative second novel all about love and second chances.
Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac is a 2008 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.
About 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.
Hometown:New York, New York
Date of Birth:October 24, 1977
Place of Birth:Poughkeepsie, New York
Education:A.B. in English and American Literature, Harvard College, 2000
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.
“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.”
Reading Group Guide
The book opens with Naomi in an ambulance with amnesia. As Naomi is discovering who she is, so are you: as she is now, who she has been in the past, and who she wants to be. Focus on some of the things she discovers about her life over the last few years: some of them feel right, such as her friendship with Will; some startle her, such as her mother's remarriage; some mystify her, such as her relationship with Ace.
1. Build a profile of Naomi pre-amnesia.
2. Describe some of the "watershed" moments for Naomi--times when she does not act like the girl she was--for example, when she cuts her hair or quits yearbook. How are the actions defining who she will become?
3. Amnesia gives not only Naomi a second chance but also others in her life. Pick a character and examine how Naomi's amnesia affects his/her life.
4. Why is the fact that Naomi is an orphan important? How does the author weave this theme throughout the story?
5. Explore the symbolism of Naomi's being found as a baby in a typewriter case. How else are typewriters and books relevant to her story?
6. Photography is a recurring motif. How does it enrich the story?
7. Discuss the role of music throughout the book.
8. Compare and contrast Naomi and James.
9. Examine the scene in which Naomi's memory returns. Why is it significant that it is the French word for camera that seems to open the floodgates? Why are the two memories Naomi recounts--and the individuals they involve--pivotal?
10. Read the prologue again. Speculate: Would Naomi have made some of the same choices/charges if she had not experienced amnesia?
11. What would you do with a second chance?