Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

September 2, 2013
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The character that I identify with most would have to be Naomi. Naomi never appealed to me; I did not like her for most of the book. However, I identify with her because I know what she is going through when she starts school and feels like a new student. I had to start a new school in eighth grade without knowing anybody. I do admire how she doesn’t care what other people think. That is the most that I like about her character. A quote that describes her is, ‘I have a tendency to deal with things by not dealing with them at all.’(15). This is the quality that is the main reason for my dislike of her. For the beginning of the book all Naomi wants to do is fit in and be her old self, but fitting in makes her unhappy. She then overcorrects and steers too far from her true self; this is shown when she starts hanging out with James, who is not a good person for her to hang around with. By the end of the book she finds a good middle ground and becomes the person that she is supposed to be.
The central challenge in this novel was that Naomi lost her memory. She has no idea as to who she has been for the past four years. She does not know about her own likes, dislikes, friends, or her parents’ divorce. This is very difficult for Naomi because she is essentially starting over her life as a new person. She needs to find herself again. Eventually Naomi does get her memory back. However, she realizes that she is a different girl than the pre-amnesiac girl. The pre-amnesiac Naomi counted calories, hated her mother, had birth control pills, disliked her father’s fiancé, was the co-editor of the yearbook, and played tennis. Throughout the book Naomi gets over those bad habits. I would approach the challenge a bit differently from the way Naomi did. I would try to find out more about myself from people and scrapbooks whereas she just went through life trying to go unnoticeable and suffered in silence.

I think that the most memorable scene in the book is when Naomi cuts all of her hair off. Naomi is in her room looking at old yearbook pictures. She has the urge to cut her hair to match the picture in the yearbook. Then she thinks, ‘… it occurred to me that it might be pointless to even try to look like the girl in the yearbook. It might be easier to be somebody completely different instead’ (109). Naomi is attaching everybody’s expectations to her hair. To her, as her hair falls away, so do people’s expectations of her. She says, ‘I felt giddy and light, like I might even start to float away. It was the end of normal. The girl in the yearbook would never have had short hair.’ (109). Her line of thinking was, ‘If no one recognized me, they wouldn’t be upset when I didn’t recognize them either.’ (110). This scene is important because this is when Naomi starts to differentiate herself from what she used to be. She stops being shallow and superficial, starts trying new activities, makes new friends, and stops trying to live up to others’ expectations.

Don’t let other people define who you are. After the fall, Naomi has no idea who she is. People are telling Naomi that she likes yearbook, tennis, always sits with Ace’s friends, likes to go to parties, and drinks. They also tell her that she thinks that her mom is a slut and she dislikes her Dad’s fiancé. Even her pre-amnesiac self was trying to define who she was. Based on what is in her room, Naomi was a very shallow person before the fall. Everyone in her life wanted her to go back to being her old shallow self. Naomi soon becomes angry at people for this and cuts her hair, joins the play, and breaks up with her boyfriend. She is soon unrecognizable from her shallow self and her true self. Naomi defines herself as a new and better person than the person that everybody wants her to be. I agree with the author’s message. You are the only person who is going to live your life, so you should be the person who chooses who to be and how to live.

‘It was the tension of the day more than the trouble I was in… It was lying, not just to Dad but to everyone. It was wondering how I’d let everything get so screwed up. With James and Mom and Will and Dad and school and yearbook and tennis and even poor Ace. It was all the things I hadn’t said, but couldn’t and wanted to. They constricted my throat to where the only thing to do was cry or choke. It was that half-eaten carton of strawberries and the coin toss that I’d lost and being abandoned in a typewriter case and then again by my own crazy, beautiful, treacherous, wall-painting mother. It was my sunglasses, which I’d left on the beach that day. The sun had gone down and I hadn’t needed them anymore. It’s when you don’t need something that you tend to lose it.’ (207). I selected this quotation because I feel like it is extremely powerful. This is where Naomi realizes that she messed up; that while she was trying to distance herself from the pre-amnesiac Naomi, she also lost track of her real self. She understands that she has been pushing everybody in her life away; and that she was wrong in thinking that she did not need some people in her life, like her mother and Will. This quote does connect with the message of the book; it shows how Naomi took the message of the book too far.

I think that students should read this book over summer. I liked this book and it was not difficult to read. Some people could be sensitive to the fact that her Mom had an affair, but this happens early on in the book so people can easily put the book down and start another one instead. The message can apply to everyone. The one thing that I did not like was the characters. I found Naomi to be annoying and difficult for no reason; although I did start to like her near the end of the book. I disliked James throughout the whole book. I found him to be extremely moody and I wasn’t sure why Naomi liked him at all. Naomi’s mother was hardly in the book and her father never seemed to be around Naomi as much as he needed to. And I feel like we never really got to know Rosa Rivera, her mother’s new husband, and Chloe. For most of the book Ace was just a walking stereotype, until the end of the book, where I realized that I actually liked Ace better than James. Will Landsman was the only likable character. He had depth, character, and an actual personality. Other than that the plot was very nice.

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