by Gordon Korman (2017)
An Intermediate and Middle School selection.
How many people get a do-over on life? Can a leopard change its spots?
After a fall off the roof lands Chase in a coma, he regains consciousness with a concussion and amnesia. The concussion keeps the all-county running back temporarily off the football team. But the real challenge is the amnesia. Chase has to try to make sense of his life when all thirteen years of it have been erased. What kind of person was he?
It turns out Chase was a bully. He learns this by fits and starts, seeing how his old friends behave, how they expect him to behave, and by observing a host of people cower intimidated when they first see him again. Chase must come to terms with the person he was. Is he fated to become the same person when his memory returns?
His friends and classmates are just as confused. Why is he being polite? Why is he helping old people? Why isn’t he sitting with the football team at lunch? Is this a “New Chase”?
Korman counters the tragedy of bullying with the comedy of teenage life. Readers will laugh out loud at Brendan’s (from the video club) witty narration of the middle school experience as if it were a wildlife documentary: “The impressive breadth and diversity of wildlife in the modern middle school is on display nowhere more than in the lunchroom. Here we see the species Cheerleadus maximus grazing in her native habitat, the salad bar…”
But while Chase struggles to solve the mystery of his memories, the question of his transformation remains. Has he really gone from predator to defender? Or, is this just some sort of show, another cruel joke?
Korman’s clear, snappy storytelling will inspire readers to share their stories of regret. They will enjoy discussing the possibility and complexities of escaping a reputation: Can we ever completely atone for our sins? Are we morally required to give people a second chance? Are some things unforgiveable? If there are two sides to every story, are there two sides to every bully?
Restart invites schools to explore bullying, concussions, veterans, and the elusive viral video set amidst the tangled web of comedy and tragedy that is middle school. And conversations that start about bullying will lead to discoveries about power of humans to change and our willingness to forgive. Don’t worry, though. This book will evoke deep conversations, but it certainly isn’t medicine. The humor and honesty will win over students and families alike.