Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac
is a young adult novel by Gabrielle Zevin. The story takes place in contemporary Tarrytown, New York, and follows protagonist Naomi Porter after a slip on the stairs leaves her with no memory of the last four years of her life. Because of her amnesia, Naomi struggles to find her identity after the accident, and proceeds to make a new life for herself that feels truer to who she really is, and not the person she was before. Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac
begins with Naomi Porter and her best friend Will at a yearbook meeting in their high school. The two have to run an errand, and they flip a coin to see who has to go and retrieve the item they need. Naomi loses the toss, and on her walk, she slips and falls on the stairs, smacking her head. She is knocked unconscious, and when she comes to she is being wheeled into an ambulance and hears an unfamiliar voice telling the paramedics that he is her boyfriend. Naomi is taken to the hospital and given stitches. She can't remember anything, and when she returns to her hospital room she is introduced to James, who rode with her in the ambulance. James admits that he is not in fact her boyfriend, though he wishes he was, and he slips out of the hospital room when Naomi's father arrives. Naomi's best friend Will also visits and reminds her that he is her confidante, and also that her real boyfriend's name is Ace, a jock who is away at tennis camp.
The doctors can't explain why Naomi has such long-term amnesia, but it appears that her last memories are of the sixth grade. Some doctors suspect that Naomi may be using the accident to suppress past trauma, but Naomi is not convinced. Naomi asks for her mother, only to learn that her father and mother divorced four years before. When her mother arrives in the hospital, Naomi asks her what happened to cause the divorce, and her mother admits that she got pregnant with a former high school friend's baby, and left Naomi and her father to move to the city. Naomi is enraged at her mother and thinks she's a slut.
Naomi returns to her dad's house, which is not the bright and cheery house she remembers. Instead, her dad has moved to a sterile, modern home. Naomi's room is the most colorful in the house, and she begins to feel more comfortable. However, she doesn't see herself in many yearbook photos, or have many texts from friends. When she returns to school, Naomi discovers that she doesn't particularly like her popular jock boyfriend Ace or the people she apparently always ate lunch with. Ace often sneaks into her room at night, but Naomi is not attracted to him and makes him sleep on the floor. Trying to escape from the insanity of the first few weeks of school without a memory, Naomi visits the greenhouse, where she finds James, who gives her his t-shirt to keep her warm.
Naomi continues to struggle with her identity as she becomes more and more displeased with the snotty girls that she eats lunch with, and with Ace's behavior. She and Ace go to a party one night, and Ace gets drunk. Naomi has one beer and feels drunk immediately, and has to call her dad to take her home. In the car, her dad introduces her to his girlfriend Rosa, who he had lied to Naomi about visiting that evening. Naomi immediately doesn't like Rosa, though she doesn't have any memories to back up her distaste. When they get home, Naomi's father tells Naomi that he and Rosa are getting married. Rosa tries to express her sympathy to Naomi, but Naomi doesn't want to be close to her.
Meanwhile, Naomi spends more time with James, watching classic movies and getting to know him better. The two obviously have a budding romance. Naomi ultimately becomes fed-up with her fake life, and decides to make the dramatic decision to cut her own hair. When she returns to school, Will loves her new hair-do, but Ace hates it. The two soon break up, and both are relieved to be free of each other. It also gives Naomi the opportunity to get closer to James, who she kisses after an unofficial movie date.
Naomi's mother remains a strange figure while Naomi has amnesia, though her mother sends a care package with stylish silver sunglasses that Naomi loves. Naomi tries to find herself by auditioning for a play that her new friend Alice is directing, and she gets the part of Hamlet in the school's production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
. Naomi finally admits to Will that she has joined the theatre group, and he is proud and supportive of her. Naomi discovers in these moments who she was before the accident, the people that she loves unconditionally and wants to keep in her life, and the people she does not.
The book ends with Naomi in her new boyfriend James' car, when her memory comes flooding back to her. She does not tell James at that moment what happened, but instead decides that it is time to truly embrace this new identity that she created, which feels truer to who she really is than the girl she was before she lost her memory.
Gabreille Zevin is the author of novels and screenplays for both teens and young adults. She received a Goodreads Award for Best Fiction and a James Tiptree, Jr. Award. She also won an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay. Her first novel, Elsewhere
, was published in 2005, and received a 2006 Quill Award, among other honors.