Scholastic, 2017 243 pages
Chase wakes up at the hospital with strangers staring down at him. The strangers are his mother and his brother. He finds out that he fell off his roof, cracking his head, and losing all his memories. The new school year begins and Chase notices that his fellow students either treat him as if he were a hero or as if he was the devil. His two former best friends from the football team try to get him to remember his old ways, return to the team, and toughen up, yet Chase finds himself drawn to the nerds from video club. Much to the student body's surprise, he joins the video club and displays talent at making movies, as well as finding pleasure in the pastime. One student, Shoshanna, treats him with contempt, even going so far as to throw frozen yogurt over his head. Why does she hate him so much? And why are other people, including his four-year-old half-sister, afraid of him? As the novel progresses Chase slowly discovers what the reader has known all along; that he was a terrible person and bully, torturing Shoshanna's brother so badly that he now attends boarding school. Through volunteering at a nursing home Chase befriends a purple-heart decorated Korean War veteran. He works with Shoshanna to capture the veteran's story and enter (and win!) a video contest. They start to become friends, Shoshanna's brother returns to town, Chase is starting to feel comfortable with his new life, but the football friends are not happy. They want the old Chase back and will stoop down as low as necessary to restore him to his old, nasty self.
Gordan Korman does it again: penning a fun, interesting, plot-intensive tale that kids, including reluctant readers, will gobble-up. Told in multiple points of view, we see all the sides of the story, which work together to paint a picture of who Chase was and the confusing of the person he is now. Amnesia is a tried and true plot device that always yields interesting results. Kids will be fascinated by the concept and let their imaginations wander thinking about what would happen if they were in the same shoes as Chase. The story is kid-friendly and fun, yet Korman weaves many ethical issues into the story such as bullying, the unfairly bias treatment of student athletes, the power of second chances, forgiveness, honesty, choosing your real friends, and doing the right thing. There are a lot of characters in this book, but Korman is so experienced at writing in this genre, it is very easy to tell them apart. The multiple points of view could get muddy, but he writes all of the characters with separate voices and character names as chapter headings further help tell the reader navigate the narration. This book would be an easy sell to boys, but girls will like it too. It will find a natural home in classrooms and will make a terrific read-aloud for teachers, especially at the beginning of the school year. Restart will also make a great choice for book discussion and I think I will try to use it as my lead book this September, as long as enough copies are on the shelf. Currently there are forty-seven copies of this book owned by libraries in my library system and only fifteen copies are available, proving the kid appeal of both this title and Gordon Korman.