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Book Review: Notes to Self by Avery Sawyer

Happy Tuesday everyone! Today’s featured book review is another trip into the Young Adult bookspace. My review copy of Notes to Self was graciously provided by the author, Avery Sawyer.

Notes to Self. I love this title – I actually have a work-in-progress WITH this title, actually. (teehee) It could not be more different than Avery Sawyer’s delicate novel about the weighty angst of being a teenager though. Sawyer’s Notes to Self relates the aftermath of a mysterious “accident” that has left her protagonist, Robin, memory-less and her protagonist’s best friend, Emily, in a long-term coma. (Mine is a snarky collection of stories – with nothing particularly delicate anywhere to be found.)

Robin’s memory loss is a strange thing – odd bits of everyday life are lost, as well as the events surrounding the tremendous fall from an amusement park tower that put her and Emily into comas. Comas that were matching, right up until the beginning of the novel, when Robin realized she had no memory of the fall – or of how to be a “regular” person. At the advice of her doctor, she begins to write notes to her self to help to avoid the confusion that threatens her equilibrium as she begins to recover – physically, mentally, and emotionally – from the trauma of the fall.

I really enjoyed this book. Robin’s journey to rediscover the lost moments at the amusement park – and her own feelings about herself, Emily, and the rest of her life – is managed deftly, in a raw and honest voice that more than occasionally breaks your heart. Throughout the story, whenever she finds herself subject to stress or tension or the persistent questioning of the other girls at school (Emily was fairly popular, Robin was not – people are not amused that Emily hasn’t woken up yet and want to hold Robin responsible), she repeats a single, plaintive phrase: “I fell…” Over and over. “I fell…” And she did – literally and figuratively.

I found myself wanting to protect Robin from the cutthroat world of teenage girl politics while simultaneously wondering, just a teensy bit, whether the other girls might be right and there might not, in fact, be something Robin is deliberately holding back. Sawyer keeps the reader balanced on a rather fine edge for much of the story, teetering between sympathy and suspicion. She does a fine job of capturing what it is to be all-consumed by life as a teenager while providing a solid reminder of why we need to yank ourselves back.

The voice was authentic and took me right back to high school (in a good way) – I never felt like an adult reading about a kid’s life. This was a well-assembled story, with just enough suspense – and questions about Robin’s motivations and mental state – to make it difficult to put down. Well done Avery Sawyer… :)

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