Chase Ambrose falls off a roof in the summer before eighth grade. He’s in a coma for four days and when he wakes up at the hospital, he has no memory of his life before the accident.
Here’s what he learns about himself in the weeks before school starts:
First of all, he’s a great athlete — there are newspaper clippings and trophies all over his room.
Second, he has two best friends, Aaron and Bear — there’s a picture on his phone of the three of them together, grinning like crazy. They’re holding a baseball bat with the remains of some kid’s Halloween pumpkin smashed on the end.
And he has some enemies — he figures this out the day he smiles at a girl and she immediately marches over and dumps her vanilla frozen yogurt on his head (chocolate sprinkles and all).
Chase’s mom fills him in on a lot of things, but he can’t shake the feeling she’s leaving something out. There’s something about his life that she doesn’t want him to know.
Genre: humor, realistic fiction
J’s take on it:
This is the second Gordon Korman title I’ve booktalked in the past couple years, and both have been big hits with the kids. When I mention that Korman also wrote Masterminds and Swindle, I usually get a murmur of recognition from the class — both series are popular read-alouds in fourth and fifth grade classes.
Restart is a stand-alone title that turns the middle-school bully motif upside down. What if the school’s biggest bully can’t remember he’s a bully — and starts hanging out with his former targets instead of with the jocks? It’s a premise that Korman fleshes out with trademark humor, touching friendships, and unlikely stunts. (The tricycle through the carwash scene is particularly memorable.)
Although Chase expresses some disorientation from his amnesia, the story is kept lighthearted. For a more emotionally realistic look at traumatic brain injuries, try Blank by Trina St. Jean (for middle school and up).