Restart by Gordon Korman

Chase’s memory just went out the window. Chase doesn’t remember falling off the roof. He doesn’t remember hitting his head. He doesn’t, in fact, remember anything. He wakes up in a hospital room and suddenly has to learn his whole life all over again . . . starting with his own name.

Even though I enjoyed the ride, I experienced enough disconnect that I just wasn’t buying. This story of a completely evil bully, thief, and tough guy turned into a completely harmless and benevolent thirteen year old kid by a fall off the roof was fun to read, but I didn’t really believe in the premise. Chase and his two sidekicks are so mean, so completely without redeeming qualities before Chase’s accident. They terrorize the entire school; practically the whole town walks in fear of Chase and his buddies. Then, magically (but it’s not magic), Chase loses his memory and becomes a different person. He doesn’t remember the old Chase and all of his nefarious and violent bullying ways, so he is free to become New-Chase, a guy who doesn’t understand why anyone would use his power and popularity as a star football player to torment and intimidate others. Not only does he not understand the impulse to violence and bullying, all of his new inclinations are peace, light, and goodwill. New-Chase defends the oppressed, listens to the elderly, and plays with little children.

The characterization is pretty one-dimensional for most of the minor characters and some of the major ones, too: the grumpy war hero, the blindly affirming mom, the pushy dad, the accommodating principal, the two jerks, old-Chase (pre-accident) himself, Kimberly the clueless girl with a crush, even Brendan the nerd. I never forgot for long that they were characters in a book. And yet, I did enjoy the story during the times that I was able to suspend disbelief.

Readers who buy into Chase’s reincarnation as a good guy will enjoy the humor and the thought experiment in reimagining a bully turned into sweetness and light by a slight concussion and subsequent amnesia. It is fun to watch Chase rediscover himself—until what he discovers is that self is not-so-great. Recommended reading for middle school bullies: “O wad some Power the giftie gie us/To see oursels as ithers see us.” (Robert Burns) Chase rediscovers himself through the eyes of others who do remember Old-Chase, and then he must decide who he is going to be in the future.

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