If you look up author Gordon Korman on your digital library site, you’ll discover two things. Thing 1: He’s written a lot of books. Thing 2: All of his books are checked out. Now I know why.
Because I loved Restart! I just heard about it yesterday, found the audio on Hoopla, bought the Kindle version for four dollars, and am now a huge fan.
Chase Ambrose is a thirteen year old alpha male at Hiawasee Middle School. Captain of the football team, world-class bully, proud delinquent, and king of the cafeteria, Chase has got game. Or he had game. Because now Chase is suffering from amnesia, the result of falling off of his roof and landing on his stupid head. Memories of his family, friends, sports accomplishments, and a laundry list of intimidating others–all gone. Yeah…his mother left out the last part when she dropped him off at school for the first time after the accident.
Now Chase is learning things all over again. He still knows how to walk, talk, and feed himself. But he doesn’t understand why kids scatter in the hallways when they see him coming or why they pick up their lunch trays and move to a new table. His buddies, Aaron and Bear, assure him that it’s all in a day’s work as the hulking pranksters of the school.
Meanwhile, past victims of the terrible trio are skeptical and confused. Their leader is different. He’s helpful. Polite. Kind, even. What is going on? Does he know what he’s doing? Does he know what he did? Does he understand the fear he’s instilled to the point that parents have even taken their kids out of the school? And then what? Is everyone supposed to pretend like nothing happened? Chase might have amnesia, but nobody else does.
And so, throughout the school, a ripple effect begins. Everyone has decisions to make. Forgive? Forget? Embrace the new guy trapped in the body of the old guy? The guy that would shove you, humiliate you, or make you wear your mac and cheese?
Yes, it’s funny and there were plenty of times when I laughed out loud. But Restart is also about being the bigger person. Not the bigger bully, but the person who takes the high road, the person who looks in the mirror and realizes that we all have our less-than-stellar moments, the person who is wise enough to know that it takes just one good example for everything to change. To be better than it was before.
This is a story for young people and adults. It is a story for young people and adults to read together and discuss. Never heavy-handed and brimming over with humor, this book makes us realize that everyone can erase their past mistakes even if we remember them. We just need a little pause and a little humility to Restart.