Restart by Gordon Korman is a 2017 novel about Chase Ambrose, an eighth-grade bully given a chance to remake himself for the better.
- Chase wakes up in a hospital bed with amnesia, having fallen from the roof of his house. He cannot remember anything about his life.
- When he returns to school, Chase realizes that many of his classmates fear or dislike him. He makes different choices, hanging out with the video club instead of the football team.
- Chase commits to becoming a better person, especially when he learns about a crime he committed just before his amnesia took hold.
Last Updated on May 24, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1315
Chase Ambrose, an eighth grade football star at Hiawassee Middle School, awakes in a hospital, having fallen off the roof of his house. He finds that he has no memory of his life. As Chase returns to school, he learns about who he was before the accident and does not feel proud of what he hears. The new Chase longs to create healthier relationships, yet he is continuously met with hostility from those he has injured in the past.
The book’s chapters alternate among various points of view. One of those is Shoshanna Weber, whose twin brother, Joel, was one of Chase’s victims. Together with his two football friends, Aaron and Bear, Chase relentlessly bullied Joel. This torment came to a climax when the boys rigged a piano to explode during a performance while Joel was playing. Afterward, the Weber parents believed that their son was not safe at school with Chase and his friends, and they sent him off to boarding school. Shoshanna harbors an intense hatred toward Chase for the anguish he caused Joel.
Chase decides to join the video club, which is something the old Chase would have never considered. He tries to split his time between his old football friends, whose actions now leave him unsettled, and his new video club friends. He proves to be a capable cameraman. Brendan Espinoza becomes an important ally for Chase in the club, particularly when facing Shoshanna, also a member of the club, who protests Chase’s involvement.
Every few days, Chase reports to the Portland Street Assisted Living Residence, where he has been court-ordered to carry out community service for a crime that occurred before his accident. Although the court has not insisted that Chase complete his hours following the accident, Chase decides that finishing the hours is the most responsible course of action. Aaron and Bear are nuisances to the staff and residents, but Chase makes an effort to work conscientiously and connect with the elderly community who lives there. When Mrs. Swanson mistakenly tips the boys for rearranging her furniture, Bear swipes her money despite Chase’s protests. Convinced that the boys have taken advantage of the elderly woman’s fragile mental state, Chase sneaks back down the hall and slips the same amount of money under her door.
Chase befriends Mr. Solway, a generally grumpy resident of the assisted living residence who, Chase learns, is a recipient of the Medal of Honor. Chase is amazed by this prestigious recognition and wants to know more about Mr. Solway’s story, convinced that Mr. Solway must have proven himself heroic to receive such an incredible award. Mr. Solway tells Chase that he received the award for his efforts in Korea in 1952 but that he cannot recall the event that earned the medal. Unfortunately, the medal has been lost and Mr. Solway isn’t even sure how to begin locating it. Gradually, he and Chase begin to form an unlikely friendship.
Meanwhile, Shoshanna finds herself increasingly drawn to the new Chase and believes that he has truly changed following his accident. She thus begins to question her parents’ decision to keep Joel at boarding school, especially since he is so miserable there. In a frank conversation, she convinces her parents that the new Chase poses no threat to Joel, and her parents bring him home so that he can return to classes at Hiawassee Middle School.
At home, Joel finds that Bear and Aaron haven’t changed, but he realizes that his sister’s instincts about Chase are plausible. As he returns to video club, Joel is initially hesitant to trust Chase but gradually grows to believe that Chase’s efforts are genuine. Eventually, even the Weber parents welcome Chase into their home as Chase and Shoshanna share a deepening friendship.
Bear and Aaron are annoyed that Chase can’t remember their previous friendship, and they don’t like the new version of their old friend. Determined to jog Chase’s memory, the two concoct a plan to remind Chase of his old life. While Brendan films with the video club in the music room at school, Bear and Aaron burst in, spraying everything down with fire extinguishers and knocking instruments all over the room. Kimberly, a recent addition to the club who fawns over Chase, runs to retrieve Chase, who is taking a test in another room. When Chase enters, Aaron loudly tells the room that this scene was Chase’s plan. Chase appears stunned by what he sees and then scuffles with his former friends over the fire extinguisher. In the scuffle, the fire extinguisher slams into Joel’s face as teachers rush in to break up the scene.
Chase, Bear, and Aaron sit outside the principal’s office as Bear and Aaron begin laughing at what they’ve done to “the poor Geek Squad.” Chase is horrified as he realizes that his old friends have framed him to take the blame. When questioned, Bear and Aaron concoct a story that they had rushed into the room with fire extinguishers because they smelled smoke. The principal turns to Chase to verify this story, and Chase finds that it’s easier to simply go along with what his former friends have said. Seemingly relieved, the principal lets the three boys go with only a lecture about proper fire safety protocols.
Chase’s friends in video club realize he has lied, and Mrs. DeLeo, who is the sponsor of the club, informs Chase that he can no longer be part of the group. She mentions that the Weber family is “pretty rattled” over the incident, particularly because Joel had received yet another injury because of Chase’s direct actions. Meanwhile, Chase’s father, a former football star himself, finds a doctor who agrees to clear Chase’s return to football following his head trauma. Chase isn’t thrilled and worries that returning to football will somehow make him regress to the way he was before the accident. He doesn’t want to be that boy anymore.
Brendan finds the video footage of the fire extinguisher incident and realizes that Chase had hit Joel on accident during the struggle. He organizes a meeting for the group so that he can share this information with them. At home, Chase suddenly recalls a horrific memory and realizes that he was the one who stole Mr. Solway’s Medal of Honor; he was hiding the medal under some shingles on the roof of his mother’s house when he slipped and fell, triggering his amnesia. Chase rushes to the assisted living residence, determined to return the medal to Mr. Solway as quickly as possible.
At the assisted living residence, Chase runs into Aaron and Bear. When they learn that he has the medal, they remind him that two-thirds of it belongs to them; the boys hope to sell the medal for a substantial amount of money. Chase refuses to relinquish the medal, even vacuuming it up so that they can’t grab it. In the ensuing physical altercation, Mr. Solway slams his walker into Aaron just before Aaron hits Chase in the head with the vacuum. Chase confesses to Mr. Solway that he stole the Medal of Honor before the accident, and the nurse on duty calls the police.
Chase is forced to appear in court for his crime. Surprisingly, a great number of character witnesses appear on his behalf. Just before Chase is sentenced to a juvenile detention center, Mr. Solway appears and insists that there was no crime; instead, he claims that he had simply allowed Chase to borrow his medal for a while.
Chase returns to football and to video club, and he begins recalling bits of his life before the accident. He continues to be a kind person despite returning to football and recalling the person he was before the accident.