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Reconstructing Amelia: A Novel Paperback – December 3, 2013
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Paperback. Pub Date :2013-12-03 Pages: 400 Language: English Publisher: HarperCollins Litigation lawyer and harried single mother Kate Baron is shocked when her daughters exclusive Brooklyn private school calls to tell her that Amelia-her intelligent. high-achieving fifteen -year-old-has been caught cheating But when Kate arrives at Grace Hall. shes blindsided by far more devastating news:.. Amelia is dead Despondent. shes jumped from the schools roof At least thats what Grace Hall and the police tell Kate. . Its what she believes. too. until she gets the anonymous text:. Amelia didnt jump Now. Kate is going to find the truth-no matter where it leads Sifting through Amelias e-mails. text messages. and Facebook posts. Kate. reconstructs the pieces of her daughters life and the people in it. uncovering why she was on Grace Halls roof that day-and how she died.A superb blend of...
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The character depth. This isn’t your average thriller where the point of the reading experience is to be surprised by one plot twist after the other, and character development falls to the wayside. Part of what makes this novel so engaging is that McCreight takes the time to piece together the lives and psyche of her two primary characters – Amelia and her mom Kate – chapter by chapter. The reader is introduced pretty fully to who Kate is within the first few chapters of the book, but because Amelia is absent almost from the beginning, her character is brought to life in a dribble of information and discoveries that extend throughout the novel. The narrative alternates between chapters set in the present day, in which Kate is constantly exposed to new information about the daughter she thought she new, interspersed with chapters that flashback to the last weeks and days of Amelia’s life and that give the reader a direct glimpse into Amelia’s words and behavior. I didn’t feel that this pretty frequent change in time frames was confusing, but rather that it added to the substance and suspense of the novel.
The many, well-executed plot twists. Just because Kimberly McCreight does an admirable job developing her characters in what is incredibly a debut novel, that doesn’t mean that this thriller lacks for surprising plot twists. On the contrary, once Amelia’s mother starts to doubt whether Amelia in fact committed suicide (not a spoiler since it’s in the plot teaser), the list of potential suspects or contributors to Amelia’s death is long and constantly changing. There is more than one secret in both Kate’s and Amelia’s lives, and things that they both were not fully honest with each other about. The reader, alongside Amelia’s mom Kate, discovers new information about Amelia’s friendships and experiences at school in every chapter, including revelations that exclude some suspects and bring new ones to the fore. The ending of the novel wasn’t the *gasp* kind of twist, but I still wasn’t expecting it, and I think it fit well overall in the narrative. For a relatively long thriller (at nearly 400 pages), Reconstructing Amelia never felt like it was dragging. It was a definite page turner, with something new to keep you going in every single chapter.
The inclusion of primary artifacts. There are not a lot of clear parallels between Maddy Holleran’s story and that told in Reconstructing Amelia. It’s impossible to know why Maddy decided to leave McCreight’s book symbolically behind, but one aspect of Reconstructing Amelia that does connect to Maddy’s experience might be the way in which McCreight uses social media and other primary artifacts as clues throughout her narrative. From blog posts written about high school life by an anonymous blogger, texts sent between Amelia and her friends, emails downloaded from Amelia’s gmail account and cryptic facebook posts, McCreight peppers her novel with Amelia’s own words and those of the students in her high school who have gone from supposed friends to suspects. It’s interesting to think about the way in which Fagan’s retelling of Maddy Holleran’s life follows some of the same research, digging into the same kinds of leftover communications from Maddy’s last months. It’s possible that by leaving Reconstructing Amelia behind, Maddy wanted to lead those seeking answers about the motivations behind her suicide to look deeper into the various ways in which she’d reached out for help (mostly subtly) to others in texts and emails before taking the ultimate decision.
No need for a section on What I Didn’t Like for this title. With excellent character development, a gripping narrative with twists and turns in every chapter, and ties to important social issues like abuse of social media and teen bullying, this debut thriller has it all.
This book hooked me in with its gripping and cliffhanging summary: "days later her mother received a text, "She didn't jump." It only took me about about a page and a half to realize the target audience for this book was teen girls and women. As a man in his late twenties, I fall in neither of those categories...Nonetheless, I still enjoyed reading. The book goes back and forth between two characters very smoothly, blending together past and present in a way that won't make your head spin. Plus is has a juicy, supple, moist, mouthwatering twist ending that I didn't see coming, despite having 30 different theories as to what happened.
Amelia was never a “normal” schoolgirl. She was happy not to join any cliques, happy to hang out exclusively with her best friend Sylvia. The two establish their own self perception of superiority to the reigning school popularity class system, until Amelia is seduced into joining a rather toxic social group that seems to delight in humiliating others. Sylvia remains unaware of Amelia’s initiation activities.
So does Amelia’s mom, Kate. A highly educated single career mom fast tracked for a partner position in a law firm, she is determined to remain a good mother to Amelia. While Kate is preoccupied with secrets in her past, Amelia is racing to keep up with changes that will affect her future. Amelia wants to have a close relationship with Kate, but there is never enough time. So Amelia must confide everything in Sylvia, except for the group named Magpies that wants to initiate Amelia into some humiliating hazing activities. Unable to confide in Kate or Sylvia, Amelia turns to Ben, a person she knows only through text messages. Left alone a lot, Sylvia turns to sex with Ian as an outlet. Unknown to her, Ian is involved with the secret group Magpies, as is Amelia.
There are lots of supporting characters: teachers, administrators, legal colleagues, PTA members, the 22 members of the Magpies. There are lots of backstories, a lot of flashbacks (that is why the reader should pay attention to the content pages). The clever use of Facebook and text messages can make some of the entries, or chapters go very fast. I read this in four hours on a Sunday afternoon in one reading session. I did not want to put it down because it was very absorbing and I also felt I might get lost if I did so; then I would have to review what I had read before proceeding further.
Of course, I will not reveal the ending, but will note that there are many surprises and, for me, very emotional. I think it inevitable that many will compare this author to Gillian Flynn or Liane Moriarty.