4.5 stars. This review is also available on my blog, Read Till Dawn.
Do you know, I was supposed to be studying for my AP exams all day today. That was the goal, at least, until that little yellow package from Scholastic showed up on my doorstep. Once I pulled out my brand new ARC of Restart, the newest Korman novel, then my day was doomed. I dropped everything and devoured the entire thing in about two sittings (the one break consisted of my trying to get back to work, failing, and then shrugging and picking the book up again).
I don’t know what it is about Gordon Korman, but his books always suck me in. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been reading them for so long now, his distinctively funny yet deep writing style makes me nostalgic and lets me pretend that I’m a little kid again and not a high school senior preparing to head off to college. Perhaps its simply because of the intriguing storylines or because he always takes the story the way I’m hoping. Maybe it’s a combination of all of those things.
Because on the surface, Restart is not the most amazing book I’ve ever read. I mean, its premise is awesome–a bully who’s lost his memory and is nice now? Sweet!–but it’s also incredibly unrealistic. Take it from the girl who was supposed to be studying AP Psychology all afternoon. And a lot of the elements that make up Restart have shown up in previous Korman novels. I was especially reminded of No More Dead Dogs and The Chicken Doesn’t Skate, because all three books have elements of social blending, with kids from wildly different clubs and interests coming together in a combination of sports and theater/filmmaking/science (respectively). I also noticed a few character archetypes, like the filmmaker addict and the main girl who starts out hating the protagonist, and the slightly spacey fangirl chasing after the protagonist. All of these characters show up in at least two of the three books I mentioned, and some of them in others besides.
But you know what? I just don’t care. Gordon Korman does middle schools books well. And I love the elements he pulls together, and Restart is actually a really good book. Because you see, I adored No More Dead Dogs and The Chicken Doesn’t Skate. To this day, they still rank on my list of favorite books ever. If Korman wants to revisit some of his greatest successes and borrow a few devices, then I am totally okay with that.
And besides, how could I not love the “bully with amnesia” angle? Realistic or not, it’s played amazingly here. My main critique, honestly, is that we don’t get enough details about Chase’s ordeal. I would have loved much more time spent just on watching him adjust to life without any of his memories, and I wouldn’t have even minded getting more medical mumbo-jumbo to explain why his whole personality suddenly shifted with the bump on the head!
Anyway, I’ll stop the review here because I don’t actually have my copy of the book anymore: my elementary-school-aged brother came into my room tonight, asked for Restart,and disappeared with it. And honestly, if that doesn’t tell you something about the universal appeal of Korman’s books, then I don’t know what would.
[Update: Just thought you’d like to know that within the first two days of Restart being in the house, three of us read it: I finished it the first day, my brother borrowed it that night and finished it by lunch the next day, and my mom borrowed it that night and stayed up past midnight reading it (on the landing, because my dad kicked her out so he could go to sleep). Like I said, my family love Gordon Korman books.]
Disclaimer: I received an unsolicited copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.