Imagine falling off your roof and waking up in a hospital with no memory of your past. Enter in, “Restart” by Gordon Korman. In this engaging novel, 13-year-old Chase falls off a roof, gets amnesia, and becomes a blank slate. He now has to figure out who he was and who he desires to be. When he finds out that he was one of his school’s most notorious bullies, he’s given an opportunity to start his life again, and hopefully make better choices this time around. But even if you don’t remember who you once were, is that person still inside you, just waiting to come out?
Korman, who has probably written a million books by now, knows what he’s doing. He’s a great writer and a fantastic storyteller. I was hooked right from the get-go, and I loved getting to learn little details about Chase’s life - just as he was learning them. I felt like I was putting together the puzzle of his complicated life. While I am a tad biased, considering one of my favourite books is a Gordan Korman book, it’s safe to say that “Restart” is a New York Times bestseller for a reason.
Recommended Age Group?
The publisher’s recommended age group is 8-12. Due to the themes, character-ages, and mild language, I would increase the target age to 10.
Bullying is the main theme in this novel. There are 3 main bullies, and Chase used
to be the ringleader. Now he has to figure out how to lose that reputation and begin again. The bullying scenes may trigger bully-related memories in your students. However, even though a trigger may happen, there are plenty of reasons not to let that stop you from choosing this book as a classroom novel. The bully victim learns that he is not defined as a victim, and he’s able to find the strength to keep moving forward. This story will resonate with those students in your class who might be feeling as though they are victims. Hopefully, it will also resonate with the bullies.
The main characters in this novel are 13 years old (grade 8 students), so of course, there is some crush and dating-talk mentioned throughout the novel. One of the main characters tries desperately to get the attention of another, with the sole intention of dating. Everything in regards to this matter is very G-rated, but if I were reading this book to 3rd graders, I’d feel a little uncomfortable. Friendship and forgiveness are also central themes throughout “Restart”, and as Chase is learning who he is, he’s also learning who his real friends are.
Korman uses a lot of idioms in his writing, which might make it tricky to use as a read-aloud if you have a lot of English-as-a-second-language students. There is also some mild language throughout (stupid, idiot, etc.).
This book is classroom-approved, but due to its themes and subject matter, best suited for grades 4-7.
Due to Korman’s use of a shifting perspective narrator, I never got bored. I also found the story interesting and worth reading. This novel is great for making predictions, and your students will have no problem connecting to the characters. There are so many lessons to be learned in this fantastic book, and I heard that Korman even sold the movie rights to Disney+! Who knows, there may be a “Restart” movie coming down the pipeline!
As always, I recommend pre-reading any classroom read-alouds to make sure you are happy with the author’s content.