When we meet 15-year-old farm girl Jessica Grenier, she’s just come out of an 11-day coma (which she dubs the Big Sleep) after being charged by one of the family’s domesticated bison bulls. Suffering from retrograde amnesia, Jessica is a stranger to herself (“My old life is a long blank that my brain no longer fills in for me”) and experiences rapid mood swings – enraged one minute, melancholy and self-pitying the next. She can’t remember her 10-year-old brother Stephen, her parents, or anything about her life before the accident, but easily recalls things like the faces of Hollywood stars and how to use Facebook.
In an attempt to make sense of her new existence and recall memories and details of her former life, Jessica begins therapy with neuropsychologist Dr. K. (“Super Doc”), visits with old friends and family, and eventually goes back to school. But moving forward sometimes feels like taking 10 steps back, especially when a classmate thinks she’s faking her memory loss, and Tarin, a new friend, pressures her into running away from her past and those who love her most.
Blank’s convincing plot, engaging first-person narrative, and well-defined characters succeed in dramatizing one young woman’s struggle with unfathomable loss and change without relying on clichés. (A two-page author’s note offering sources and stats on brain injuries is sure to spark meaningful dialogue.) Blank sends the reader on a powerful, age-appropriate odyssey of self-discovery about what it means to belong, the resiliency of the human spirit, and the unshakable bonds of family.