on April 27, 2013
I was drawn to this book by the publicity comparing it to last year's "Gone Girl." That book was an intricately plotted mystery with stunning twists that were completely unexpected and that actually made sense. It was also extremely well-written, told through the distinctive voices of at least three separate characters. This book doesn't even come close. The author packs in a large number of subplots and mini-mysteries, leading the reader to anticipate a clever and unifying resolution that will tie all the loose threads together in a surprising and satisfying manner. No such luck. Without giving spoilers, I think I can safely say that many (most?) of the subplots in the book are resolved in ways that appear wholly arbitrary and have no connection to the central mystery of what happened to Amelia. The resolution of one of the mysteries (involving the author of a particularly vicious school gossip blog) ultimately turns on a character's wholly implausible motivation that is casually tossed off in a single sentence. Also, unlike "Gone Girl," the two narrators (and just about every other character) speak with utterly interchangeable voices; the author's attempt to create a distinctive 15-year-old's narrative voice largely consists of throwing in the word "like" a lot.
Particularly disturbing to me was the poor editing of this book, which is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. (I read the Kindle version, so I don't know if the same mistakes appear in the print edition.) The author's bio tells us that she attended Vassar College and graduated cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. So one would hope that she might know the difference between "your" and "you're," "then" and "than," "passed" and "past," "peeked" and "peaked," "confident" and "confidant," "reined" and "reigned," "overdo" and "overdue" (yes, a character says "don't overdue it," and isn't talking about a library book)... and might actually look up how to spell designer Donna Karan (not Donna Karen). As a reader, I found each of these errors painfully distracting, and the large number of them is really inexcusable. I've seen fewer errors in self-published porn on Amazon than in this major HarperCollins release.
I'm giving this an extra star because it held my interest and I read it in two days, but only because I was anticipating a payoff that never came.
Reconstructing Amelia reminds me of another book I loved "Sister". In both cases, we have a heart-breaking tale of a woman who will do whatever it takes to get to the truth of a love-ones so called suicide. In this case, single mother Kate Baron cannot believe that her high achiever/perfect 15 year old daughter Amelia jumped from the roof of her New York private school. Kate harbors guilt about the long hours she works at her prestigious law firm. Kate believes that the bond she had with Amelia was strong and that the time they spend together was quality.
Reconstructing Amelia swings back and forth between alternating chapters; Kate in the present and Amelia approximately 1 month before her death to slowly reveal what happened on the roof. We quickly learn that both Kate and Amelia had secrets that are also revealed through snippets from Amelia's E-mail/face-book page and a scathing school gossip blog. Amelia had recently been pegged to join an elitist all girls club at school. As a pledging, Amanda becomes enamored with one if its founding members, Dylan, and makes an enemy of another vindictive club member, Zadie. Amelia's secretive/time consuming membership in this club called the Magpies also causes tension between her self-centered boy/crazy best friend Sylvia. "Reconstructing Amelia" is reminiscent of Donna Tartt's "The Secret History". It tackles very relevant subjects such as emotional bullying, teen-age isolation, autism, and sexuality. Amelia was a believable and likable teen-ager. Kate's guilt and regret were palpable as she slowly begins to uncover the many facets she did not know of her daughters life.
Reconstructing Amelia is a well written story about cruel teen-age behavior and a coming-of- age story. For Kate Baron, a lesson in how secrets from the past can influence your future. Reconstructing Amelia is highly recommended for the appropriate reader including a young adult. Those looking to read a page-turner murder/suspense mystery may be disappointed.
on April 9, 2014
"...Because you don't want to, like, get into the deets of your kid's Facebook page. I mean, I'm twenty-four, and I'm a pretty scrubbed-up guy and whatevs, but my 'rents would stroke out if they saw my whole page. You've gotta filter it for ma and pa. I mean, who wants to see their kid doing body shots, like, ever?"
Seriously. This is a direct quote. I like to think I'm young enough to know how "the kids" are talking these days, and I don't know a single soul that talks like that. Not even 24 year old "stoner" IT Tech guys, like she is trying to portray this character. It's as though the author watched a bunch of terrible teen movies to get some lingo, took some of what she remembered from being a teenager herself, and then tried desperately to sound like she knows how kids/young adults talk today. All this in a book that's supposed to be for adults...? No thanks.
The beginning of the book was rough going, and every time we're in the vantage point of the teenagers, the writing is horrid like the above quote. After I read that line, I literally couldn't stomach anymore, so I have no idea how this book ends....
on April 9, 2013
I think the reviewers got this one wrong. Everyone is comparing this book to Gone Girl, but it doesn't come close in comparison to that interesting, unique book. Reconstructing Amelia borrows devices from other books like different voices and a changing timeline, but it isn't using these devices in a better or new way. The writing style of this book is closer to Gossip Girl, and I wish it was more clear in the book's description (and reviews) that this is more of a Young Adult novel.
Pet Peeve: If I'm reading about a really smart character, I would not like to be told that they're smart (over and over)...show me how smart they are in their actions. I kept reading that Amelia and Kate were both very smart--a good student, a great lawyer--but I really can't see where either one of them showed me how clever or smart they were in their actions within the book.
Sadly, the hype of this book didn't match the content...it was not inspiring, but instead a disappointment.
My "in a nutshell" summary...
Amelia...dies...is it suicide...an accident...or was she pushed?
My thoughts after reading this book...
Ok...me? Personally? I love private school stories. Privileged teens mixed with cool kids mixed with not so cool kids...lots of independence...lots of bullying...mixed in with arrogance and way too much freedom. This all usually makes for lots of drama...and this book is packed with drama. The story centers around Amelia and her mom, Kate. Kate is a single mom who works long hours but believes that she and her daughter have a great relationship. And they sort of do...but perhaps Kate trusts Amelia a bit too much. Amelia...lovely, smart, innocent, loyal, trusting...too trusting. Amelia gets involved with a secret club at her school...then falls in love...then gets bullied until her life falls apart.
Kate...numb and grieving...is determined to find out what really happened to her lovely daughter.
This book is a fast paced mystery so that's all I am going to tell you about it. There is that bad girl character that I loved hating...in fact there are a lot of mean girls in this novel...there are FaceBook scandals and mean texting and notes and a conspiracy contrived to bring Amelia and perhaps even Kate...down. The pages sped by and this book was sometimes heart breakingly sad.
What I loved about this book...
I loved Kate...I loved Amelia. I loved the way Amelia loved books and looked out for her friends. I loved the plotting. I loved the pace. I even loved the sad parts.
What I did not love...
Oooh...there were so many bullies and mean girls and even a mean mom or two...and a mean attorney...juicy juicy mean girl stuff...even some mean teachers!
I found this book too be so good...it literally was one of those really yummy books that I had to pry myself away from. It had a nice resounding ending...sort of sad but still good.
on June 6, 2013
I wanted to like this book, since it got good reviews and as other reviewers have said, it was being compared to Gone Girl, which is a fantastic read. But, the tone and the story were both off. I have a 21-year-old and she and her friends NEVER talked like the kids in the book, and many of the characters are such gross stereotypes that it really turns the reader off. I didn't like the main character - what mother would just believe the police for a month that the death was a suicide and then FINALLY go into the girl's room to see if she could find anything revealing on her computer, in her phone, in a diary - maybe I am just a more naturally snoopy mother, but I would have been all over that room in a flash (plus, what - the police just got around to it after a month and the mother's prodding? Wouldn't that be just a little suspicious to A REALLY SMART LAWYER??) So, sorry, Amazon.com I know you are trying to make a sale, but if I had actually bought this book instead of taking it out of the library, I would have wanted my money back! Read Gone Girl instead if you haven't.
on May 20, 2013
"Reconstructing Amelia" was one of the most disappointing books I have read in the last year. Although the positive reviews and comparisons to "Gone Girl" may have inflated my expectations, I think that I would have had a difficult time finishing this book no matter what. I finished it, hoping that it would gel in the end, and provide a real "a-ha!" moment, but instead it just limped along until the very predictable conclusion.
The characters in "Reconstructing Amelia" function essentially as mannequins for the story to hang on. They have very little independent personality, and can instead be summed up as types: Amelia is a straight-off-the rack book-smart teen who is woefully naive about the motivations of those she encounters, and her mother is a hardworking, stretched-thin single mom. Other characters are even more cardboard, from Amelia's best friend, the conflicted, promiscuous girl, to the merciless caricatures that torment Amelia at school. The dialogue, especially between the younger characters, is so awkward and uneven that it can be uncomfortable to read. I kept wondering whether the author had ever spoken to an actual teenager.
Most fatally, this a novel that does not understand what a literary twist is. The "surprises" in the book are capricious, and are only thinly woven together. The book is fast-paced in that the revelations keep coming, but every new piece of information only serves to illustrate that an effort to shock, and not plot, is what drives "Reconstructing Amelia."
on September 3, 2013
People are really comparing this book to "gone girl"? Sorry people who are, but you are wrong.
Cliches abound in this book. The characters lack nuance. The scenes that depict the "dark underbelly" of teenage life are so off the mark - not to mention lame - that it's embarrassing. To top it all off, the mother's self-loathing and guilt over her daughter's death never feels real - we read how bad she feels about everything, but we don't feel it. That's because this book tells instead of shows.
I like the book's concept, but it was executed poorly. Maybe the movie adaptation will be good.
on April 4, 2013
Wow, I thought this was pretty fantastic.
Kate Baron is a successful attorney and single mother of Amelia, a bright, witty, and talented sophomore at a prestigious New York private school. One day Kate is summoned out of a meeting and is asked to come to Amelia's school immediately--she has been caught cheating and faces significant academic penalties. This seems completely out of character for Amelia, but by the time Kate makes it to the school, things have gotten much worse. Amelia jumped from the roof of the school, an act of impulsive suicide motivated by her guilt.
Or at least that's what school officials and the police tell Kate. And while she tries to make sense of all that has happened, and relives recent interactions with Amelia to try and understand what motivated her actions, she is rocked by an anonymous text message:
Amelia didn't jump.
This text message sends Kate into a tailspin, desperate to believe her daughter didn't cheat or commit suicide, but she is afraid of what she'll find out. And the further she digs into Amelia's emails, Facebook and blog posts, text messages, and journal entries, she finds out all that Amelia was going through--and all of the people who might have had a hand in either driving her to suicide or causing her death.
This book is like a combination of Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl crossed with an episode of Law and Order, but for the most part, it doesn't feel overly dramatic or false. The biggest tragedy about this book is that so many of the things that occurred could and probably do happen among teenagers in private and public schools. Kimberly McCreight is an excellent writer who keeps the twists and turns coming full speed ahead, but she knows when to throttle back and not take the plot down too melodramatic a path.
Reconstructing Amelia is a book about friendship, romance, love between parent and child, and forging your own identity. It's also a book about the dangers of keeping secrets and the need to feel you fit in. It hooked me from start to finish, and although I ultimately was sad, I really marveled at the power of McCreight's storytelling ability. Read this.
on May 8, 2013
A fairly disappointing, highly touted debut. The premise was certainly worthwhile but the execution left a lot to be desired. We didn't need to "meet" every single person in Kate and Amelia's worlds in order to read the book. I certainly could have done without learning about Kate's co-workers. And receptionist. What were the odds the receptionist was to blame? None? Then I don't care about her. And I definitely did not need names of every student at Amelia's school. Or their parents names. Or their parents professions. There was just way too much exposition and filler. Kimberly McCreight did her novel the great disservice of throwing every possible red herring at the reader, her editor should have helped her out there. Whoever billed this book as this year's Gone Girl really was the worst offender though. Gone Girl was a taut, page turning suspense. This was a rambling "do you really still care who did it" and after 400 pages of filler no, I didn't really care.