Review: Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

I had no idea this book was from 2007. I had never heard of it until I was collecting titles from the Children’s Choice Awards (this one was shortlisted for an award, I’m not sure what year). Read on without fear of spoilers (though the major themes of the book are discussed below).

Title (year): Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac (2007)

Genre: Coming of age/Realistic setting

Other important themes: Memory, identity, the subjectivity of truth, falling for troubled boys, high school, mix CDs!

Age (sex) of main character: 16 (Female)

Estimated age of intended audience: 15-17

Wholesome/edgy/realistic?: Realistic. There is discussion of birth control and suicidal thoughts, but these aren’t played for shock value or edginess, just as facts of life. The protagonist has decent self-awareness as well as flaws.

Narrative POV: First person

Writing quality: I’d give the writing a solid B. I was definitely interested enough to keep reading. There are some quirky parts, but on the whole the writing doesn’t stand out as particularly humorous, poetic, or funky – just basic story and characters.

Formulaic or surprising?: A few surprises, mostly in some of the stops the story made on its way to an inevitable conclusion.

Comfort food/challenging?: Comfort food, all the way. There is nothing in this book to shake you up or make you go, “Hmm.”

Dark or Light? Endless struggle?: Light, despite some brushes with darker themes.

Identify with: (people of color, disabled folks, respected elders, working class) Protagonist is adopted (this is revealed on the first page of the book). Her (adoptive) father is white and her mother is half-white, half-Japanese, but race is not ever substantially addressed in the book.

Read this if you liked… Meg Cabot books like All-American Girl and Pants on Fire (her non-supernatural, non-wacky-slapstick, regular-girl stories), Sweethearts by Sarah Zarr, Carpe Diem by Autumn Cornwell, How Not to Be Popular by Jennifer Ziegler

Genre-bender? (recommended to ALL): No, although I did enjoy this book more than this review makes it sound. It was the kind of book that is a nice light story where you know everything will be OK in the end, but it didn’t stick with me much afterwards.


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