“Have a suitcase heart. Be ready to travel.” – Gabrielle Zevin, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac
This isn’t so much teen fiction as the John Hughes 80’s movie that never got made. If you watched any 80’s movies, ever, you will recognize some tropes here, but Zevin, author of the best-selling The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, handles them so well that nothing seems recycled or hackneyed – just true.
Naomi Porter hits her head one day and when she wakes up, she’s a high school junior but she doesn’t remember the last four years of her life. Doesn’t remember her boyfriend, Ace, her best friend, Will, or the fact that her parents have gotten a bitter divorce and she has a step sister. Like anyone with a snippet of manners, she’s not always comfortable reminding people she doesn’t know them and this leads to some awkward exchanges with teachers, high schoolers, and her father’s fiancée. Plus, who isn’t curious about amnesia? This plot line is catnip to many readers.
Why it’s a must read for parents:
It’s important to remember when you have a teenager that good kids do stupid things – and they’re still good kids.
Your teen doesn’t have to have amnesia to decide they want to try new things or give up an activity they’ve done for years. Our college-intent, success-obsessed society tells kids that it’s better for their college applications if they ‘specialize early’ and ‘show passions and follow-through’, but if you’re going to quit one thing and try something new, isn’t high school a better time to do that than…well, ever? Besides, new experiences always teach us something.
Sometimes, your child is going to put their friend/boyfriend/girlfriend/selves before their school work or following the rules. Sometimes, that’s the right thing to do.
It’s like an 80’s movie, and they’re not making those anymore! You’re welcome.
Why it’s a must read for teens:
Good kids sometimes do stupid things.
Just because you’ve made a decision about how you feel about something or someone doesn’t mean that those feelings can’t change. Amnesia or no, if you’re not enjoying an activity, why are you still doing it? And maybe your future step-mother isn’t so bad, is she?
Trigger warning: Seeing one’s parent’s divorce can be painful and shocking, and while this character exhibits all the emotions you’d expect, if your family is going through something similar, you might want to wait until the trauma is in the rearview mirror before bringing this book – however fabulous and satisfying – to your kid’s attention.