All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Reconstructing Amelia – Kimberly McCreight

on April 9, 2013

Reconstructing AmeliaReconstructing Amelia
Kimberly McCreight
Simon & Schuster UK
2013, 380p
Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster AU

Kate is a single mother with a demanding job in New York. One day she receives a call from her daughter’s exclusive private school: she needs to come and pick up Amelia immediately. There’s been an incident and Amelia has been suspended. They cannot give out any details over the phone but Kate needs to get to Grace Hall right away.

Due to some delays, it is over an hour before Kate manages to get there. When she arrives, she finds chaos – there are emergency services vehicles everywhere and police are blocking off the public from entering or just getting closer for a gawk. Allowed inside, Kate is given the news that no parent ever wants to hear – apparently distraught by having been caught cheating on a paper (the earlier incident that Amelia was suspended for) her daughter apparently took her own life by jumping off the roof.

Kate is devastated. She cannot believe that her daughter would do that – there were no signs and English, the subject she’s believed to have cheated in, was her best. As she moves through her grief, Kate receives a cryptic text message telling her that her daughter did not jump. On a mission now, Kate works to get the police investigation, which was ruled a suicide, reopened.

But there is a price, for all this digging. As Kate uncovers more information and begins to get a glimpse inside Amelia’s world, she’s beginning to realise that she didn’t know her daughter anywhere near as well as she thought she did. It seemed that Amelia had many secrets – from her and from others as well.

One of my biggest “first world problems” is often deciding what to read next. I have a massive TBR pile – as do so many bloggers and avid readers I know out there. When this book landed on my doorstep, I had almost forgotten I’d requested it to review. Reading the back, I knew that this one was going straight to the top of the pile. And I read it that day, starting when my youngest was in bed and my oldest had gone off to kinder/pre-school. When it was time to go to my older boy’s Easter hat parade, I had about 50p to go. I seriously considered taking it and finishing it…but this was my first Easter hat parade. I couldn’t seriously do that….right?

This is the sort of book that hooks you from the very first page. To be honest, as a parent, the one thing that frightens me the most is losing my kids. There are so many things out of your control, so this book taps into my greatest fear. I was immediately predisposed to sympathise with Kate and her soul destroying grief. Amelia was her only child, she had no others to focus on, to help her. All she had was an empty house and someone trying to tell her that her own child had decided to take her own life.

As a teenager, I told my parents precious little. They were on a need to know basis and truthfully, I felt they didn’t need to know much! You guard your privacy rabidly and it seems Amelia did just that. Despite a relatively close relationship as they had only each other, Amelia kept her secrets. The narrative switches between Kate and Amelia, moving back and forth in time. We also get Amelia’s text conversations with her friends and some facebook and social media status updates. As we get more from Amelia’s side, it becomes very obvious that her life was not what Kate thought it was. She was hiding things, she was taking her first steps into adulthood and navigating relationships and the difficult and intricate hierarchies at an exclusive prep school. Life for Amelia was definitely more than it first seemed.

This novel is a delicate exploration into the culture of bullying which seems to grow more and more a concern for parents with each passing year. When I was in high school, bullying was a very personal thing – someone had to walk up to you and look you in the eye and actually torment you that way. They couldn’t do it anonymously like they can these days, with computers and social media sites. That puts a much more sinister spin on it. You never know who is behind it. There’s absolutely no doubt that there are people out there who have had their lives ruined by such treatment. I found myself so drawn in to this story. Every new development was unexpected, every new reveal just that little bit more mindblowing. There’s something about delving into the lives of the rich and privileged and getting to be a little fly on the wall. I don’t watch (and have never watched) Gossip Girl but I have to say, the gRaCeFULLY blog did seem a little bit similar to that.

Kimberly McCreight has constructed a well thought out and written mystery here, easily slipping between the character of Kate and the teenage Amelia. I have to say there were quite a few things in this that I never saw coming and each unexpected thing raised the level of enjoyment I found within this book. I found it so easy to put myself in Kate’s shoes (which terrified me) but also easy to put myself in Amelia’s as well. We aren’t the same but I think there’s something that anyone who has been a teenage girl can identify with in another teenage girl. I also liked that Kate made mistakes in this novel, including some big ones when she was trying to find out the truth. It rang true to me, that as a grieving parent you would act irrationally, out of character and stupidly.

I loved this book. It’s one I’ll be recommending to people.

9/10

Book #81 of 2013

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4 responses to “Reconstructing Amelia – Kimberly McCreight

  1. shelleyrae @ Book'd Out says:

    I was surprised I enjoyed this so much, I could relate well to both Kate and Amelia. Great review!

  2. Beebo says:

    i’m somewhat stunned by the accolades this book has inspired. i find it really badly written. am i the only English major who feels this way? the dialogue is clunky. kate feels simpering and one-dimensional and there is nothing about amelia that seems even remotely real. to compare this to gillian flynn’s “Gone Girl” (as many readers have done) is a travesty. “Reconstructing Amelia” is to “Gone Girl” what “The DaVinci Code” is to “The Maltese Falcon.” Please reconsider the hyperbole used in describing this mediocre novel.

    • I wouldn’t know, because I’m not an English major. I didn’t read this book to analyse it, I read it to be entertained and I was. I didn’t compare it to Gone Girl, so I consider your comments on that to be redundant and actually, I wasn’t a huge fan of Gone Girl anyway.

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