Review: Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
Source: eBook, Published April 2, 2013 by Harper
Verdict: Good/Very Good
Litigation lawyer and harried single mother Kate Baron is stunned when her daughter’s exclusive private school in Park Slope, Brooklyn, calls with disturbing news: her intelligent, high-achieving fifteen-year-old daughter, Amelia, has been caught cheating.
Kate can’t believe that Amelia, an ambitious, levelheaded girl who’s never been in trouble would do something like that. But by the time she arrives at Grace Hall, Kate’s faced with far more devastating news. Amelia is dead.
Seemingly unable to cope with what she’d done, a despondent Amelia has jumped from the school’s roof in an act of “spontaneous” suicide. At least that’s the story Grace Hall and the police tell Kate. And overwhelmed as she is by her own guilt and shattered by grief, it is the story that Kate believes until she gets the anonymous text:
She didn’t jump.
Sifting through Amelia’s emails, text messages, social media postings, and cell phone logs, Kate is determined to learn the heartbreaking truth about why Amelia was on Grace Hall’s roof that day-and why she died.
Reading like a cross between a contemporary- and cautionary- teen tale and an adult mystery title, Reconstructing Amelia held my attention pretty tightly from beginning to end. The novel, a solid debut from McCreight, was on my to-read list for some time; I had pretty high expectations for it…and for the most part, it did not disappoint.
I really enjoyed the alternating viewpoints/narration between Kate and her daughter Amelia. The voices, in my opinion, were thoughtful and particular….with perhaps the voice of Amelia even more established and peculiarly lively. I also appreciate stories where authors make use of various media- i.e. texts, Facebook updates, emails, letters, etc., to give readers snapshots into the lives of characters we’re getting to know. McCreight utilized this method to great effect; for example, there are some sections of the novel where pages just of short text messages will terrify and disturb.
McCreight excelled in keeping the story moving a quick pace- and didn’t wait too long to get to the hook of the story. As soon as Kate receives the message on her phone that Amelia ‘didn’t jump’, the train starts moving- and rarely lets up. By the time I got to the ending pages, I felt exhausted. The journey that we go on with Kate to uncover ‘what happened to Amelia’ is devastating- not only in what happened on the roof and how she died- but also in the events of the weeks leading up to that very day. We are taken into this pretty abhorrent world of private schools and clubs; where taunting, bullying, outright abuses of power (by privileged parents, administrators and children alike), unfortunately (and unintentionally) become the core of Amelia’s last few months of life. In a way, the discovery of whether Amelia committed suicide or whether he was pushed, feels secondary to the Pandora’s box of what Kate learns about her daughter (and her life)- and the fact that, no matter what happens, she can never have Amelia back.
I think YA readers- fans of Courtney Summers, Jaclyn Moriarty or Laurie Halse Anderson- and readers who enjoy absorbing contemporary mysteries, might be especially taken in with this. Overall, a compelling and ultimately melancholy read.
Note: This review, written by me, originally appeared on Fabbity Fab Book Reviews. It was the last review I wrote and published for my old site!