By Awnali Mills
Chase Ambrose fell off his roof onto his head, and lost his memory. He doesn’t know who HE is, much less everyone standing around his hospital bed. As he begins to return to his normal life, Chase has to figure out who he was—and it’s not looking good. Most kids duck away from him in fear, and avoid his gaze. The football team welcomes him as a conquering hero, but his doctor won’t let him return to play. Slowly Chase is learning that the person he was before the accident isn’t the person he wants to be now, but has he really changed? Isn’t he the same person inside, whether he can remember or not? And when push comes to shove, will he be the same person after all, or can he really change his life?
I’ve loved Gordon Korman ever since I listened to The Twinkie Squad on a car trip with my kids and nearly drove off the road because I was laughing so hard. Restart isn’t a funny novel, although it has funny parts. It’s more about the topic of bullying. What forces cause a kid to become a bully? Is it intrinsic or extrinsic? If you had a chance to wipe your mental slate clean, would you make the same choices? Are our behaviors truly decisions, or merely habits?
Chase was a horrible person before the accident, but he was also a football hero, so he was well loved by a lot of people and hated by a lot for his bullying ways. Chase struggles with the opportunity to remake his life, and remake his choices. Korman handles the topic of bullying so well. He doesn’t justify Chase’s actions, but he doesn’t vilify him, either. The forces that shape Chase’s actions are undeniably strong, but Chase is always strong enough to make good decisions—whether he chooses to or not.
Told from several different perspectives, I think the book is thought provoking enough to make it a great classroom read. Restart could lead to fantastic discussions, not just about Chase, but about the people he comes into contact with and their reactions to him. Recommended for grades 4-8.