June 27, 2013

Review: Notes to Self

Title: ‘Notes to Self’
Author: Avery Sawyer
Pages: 168 (Kindle edition)
Available: NOW for your eReader or local bookstore/library
Source: The author

Summary (from Goodreads):

Two climbed up. Two fell down.

One woke up.

Robin Saunders is a high school sophomore with an awesome best friend, a hard-working single mom, and a complicated relationship with a sweet guy named Reno. She's coasting along, trying to get through yet another tedious year of high school, when Em suggests something daring. They live in Florida-- tourist central--and Emily wants to sneak into a theme park after midnight and see what they're made of.

When things get out of control, Robin wakes up in a hospital bed and Emily doesn't wake up at all. Just getting dressed becomes an ordeal as Robin tries to heal and piece together the details of that terrible night. Racing to remember everything in the hopes of saving Emily, Robin writes a series of notes to herself to discover the truth.

My Thoughts:

This book was a surprise—not because I wasn’t expecting it to be great but because I was expecting this to be a lot like ‘The Pact’ with the “two fell and one woke up” scenario.

Instead, I had a story of friendship, heartache, and truth.

As the story opens, Robin and Emily have fallen five stories, but only Robin wakes up. She has a brain injury, but she is able to heal while her best friend Emily slips into a coma. Robin experiences turmoil as she struggles to remember the events of that night. All she can remember is “I fell.” 

That phrase is repeated throughout the first half of the novel, and I thought it was interesting because it showed that while Robin felt she was fine and able to go about her daily life, the one thing she was clinging to was, “I fell.”

The plot of the novel is nicely paced, centered on Robin trying to remember that night while healing from her brain injury. Instead of going deep into how the brain heals, the author chooses another route. We get snapshots of Robin’s past and how it ties into her present. We see her friendship with Emily develop from the start and how she pulled away from another friend, the one whose unconditional friendship made me want to jump on the page and hug him—Reno.

The notes themselves weren’t what I was expecting. I thought it would be more of a diary entry type of novel with Emily writing in a diary to help jog her memory. Instead, it’s random notes of things she wants and needs to remember, like how to take a shower. I felt that notes to herself could have been a great addition to the story instead a snippet here and there. For that reason, I find the title of the novel to be a little misleading. Unless you include her flashbacks to be a note to herself. After all, she is exploring what led her to that night in the first place. In that way, the title ties in, but I felt a different title would serve more justice to the novel itself.

As for characters, I absolutely love Robin. She is trying to pick up the pieces of her life while her best friend is in a coma. And Robin isn’t living for herself; she’s living for Emily, to find the truth of what happened that night. As a result, she experiences bullying when she returns to school. Her new nickname is “short bus” and she deals with taunts from resident bad girl Josie, who blames Robin for what happened to Emily.

I have to tell you that as a teacher, I was horrified to read of Robin’s treatment, but when I step back and really think about it, teens can be vicious, even to those who are suffering so much heartache. While some may be a bit offended that the kids called her “short bus,” this is a reality. Teens make up nicknames for each other, and many times those nicknames are there to taunt and humiliate.

As for Robin’s mom, bravo to the author for giving us an involved parent. She is there for Robin, encourages her. I notice in a lot of novels aimed at teens parents are absent. I realize that a lot of times that is necessary because parents just “get in the way” of the storytelling. That is not the case with this novel. Robin needed a parent, and she had one.

And of course Reno. That boy. Throughout Robin’s memories and her quest to learn the truth, Reno is by her side. He isn’t the typical “swoon-worthy” on the page. He is what Robin needs in her life: stability. He is her constant, and I loved him. There is one scene in the novel that really made me want to hug him and tell him what a good soul he is—and it deals with Robin seeing her dad at a bar. That is all I will say. If you’ve read this book, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, you will understand once you do.

There is family drama mixed in with teen angst and love, all while Robin is trying to heal her brain and put the pieces of the puzzle together.

I recommend this to readers of ‘If I Stay’ and ‘Thirteen Reasons Why.’ The feel of the novels is the same as is the pace. I would say this is appropriate for readers age 12+.

What is your favorite “teen in crisis” novel?

Comment below and let’s talk about books.

Happy Reading!

-      The Hodgenator

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