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on October 18, 2017
What I Liked

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.

Final Verdict

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.
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on January 3, 2016
This book is a rather fast paced read, partially due to its innovative presentation style using Facebook and text message outtakes as some of its chapters. My usual approach to a book is to jump right into the content without examining the cover, copyright page, or content page. I did the same with this book and quickly became lost. Readers should look at the content page and note that 1) each chapter has a character or source name and 2) each chapter has a date. I got to the second Amelia posting, entry six, before admitting to myself that I was losing the timeline big picture. I then went back to the content pages to establish a base understanding of relationship.

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.
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on June 12, 2015
This was not a realistic book but was very entertaining, I read it in less than a week, so I have to give it three stars. The story itself has a lot of potential - as some of the other reviewers pointed out the grammar errors, I think the story could have been developed more.

The biggest problem was that there needed to be a third point of view besides the mom and the daughter. This would have solved the problem with the mom tagging along with the lieutenant while he interviews suspects/witnesses in their homes. First of all, no officer is going to question people that causally, they are going to bring them into the station and would not need a warrant to do so. Second of all, no officer would bring along an emotional grieving mother who brought absolutely nothing to the questioning, if anything made the characters reveal less information to the police. At one point the lieutenant gives the mom the address to a lead and says do not go there and find out who it is. Uh, what do you think she does? She goes there. I almost laughed out loud at that point.

My second problem with the book is that the characters are all so young, the actions in this book are better fit for a college campus. I am no prude and partied in high school, but some of the things they were doing were too far fetched. The majority of this book was a Gossip Girl wannabe - complete with an anonymous gossip blog. The reveal of the author was built up all book but was dismissed in one sentence, another example of poor writing.

I recommend this book as a quick/beach read, just don't dwell on the plot too much. I think Kimberly McCreight has a lot of potential and I look forward to reading her more developed novels.
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on January 28, 2018
Oh man. This story. I've written a thousand reviews in my head but whenever I actually came close to physically write it, I just felt confused. Mostly, this story left me with a lot of ambivalence and uncertainty.
The first thing that has me so conflicted is that I actually really wanted to like this book. It had something almost believable about how it developed. I liked that the narratives were both from the third person and first person; I thought it added some edge and generally it was a nice, refreshing surprise.
Unfortunately, it just didn't work so well for me. Crime thrillers and murder plots are one of my favorite genres, and I expected for it to be a quick read. Instead, I felt like I dragged it, forcing myself to keep going. Most of the "twists" weren't that twisty at all, and 99% of the time I'd already guessed the next one, only waiting for the confirmation. The final "twist", though, was a real disappointment.

Despite this, I didn't hate "Reconstructing Amelia". For me, it was more of a family drama than a thriller, as the sad truth remained that Amelia is dead and no twist or turn could ever change that. I liked Amelia's character, too, so it was even sadder still for it to sink in.
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on October 23, 2016
I bought this novel to read along with my younger sister. It is an interesting blend of text messages, diary entries, Facebook statuses, and traditional narrative covering the cruelty of high school and social class.

A quick subway read, the novel strings you along on a treasure hunt of clues as to who Amelia was and what led to her demise. Most characters are multi-layered; almost no one can be trusted at face value. But the ending ties too nearly together and makes big leaps to connect the dots.

It's a great teen lit read that is unusual in that a good portion is told from the mother's perspective. I identified most with Amelia's mother in this book and it felt a bit weird to read about high school make out sessions. It doesn't quite bridge the gap into adult literature although I'm not sure it's trying.
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on May 1, 2015
This was a surprisingly good story. I was not expecting some of it, and I feel some of it could have been better done. However, as a whole it was well-done. Some of the things I expected to happen were so different I was caught off-guard, which is great because who likes a predictable novel? If I wanted to know what was going to happen next, I'd be reading Jane Austen.

The hardest part of this book, for me, was the switching between the adult and child perspective. It was necessary for the story, but difficult for my brain at first. I got used to it and found myself thinking "Just until the next Amelia section... Oh, wait, a little more. I have know know what Mom did with this... OK, Just one more little part, because..."

I was satisfied, but not totally thrilled with the ending. I wanted it to be more than it was, but how it was explained so much it couldn't have been anything else. One of the major themes of the novel was obvious at the outset. I am sure the author meant to do this, but it made the suspense of "finding out" rather annoying because it had been so obvious so early. But, this was only one aspect. Everything else was unpredictable.
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on January 21, 2018
The book started off strong, but then got really predictable and kind of silly really fast. The ending seemed rushed and left me feeling just "meh" overall. I would still recommend to friends, because I really liked the strong female lead vibe that the author was going for. She seemed to get sidetracked towards the end as if she wasn't sure how to finish, and just wanted a clean, Hollywood ending.
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VINE VOICEon May 26, 2013
This was one of the most enjoyable books I have read this year. Kate is Amelia's mother, a hard-working lawyer who is very surprised to get a call from the private school telling Kate that Amelia was being suspended for cheating. But when Kate goes to pick her up, she is devastated to find that her daughter is dead, from an apparent suicide. But later, she gets an anonymous test stating that Amelia did not kill herself. Kate goes looking for answers and finds out that there was so much she did not know about her own daughter.
This could have gone either way if it was too much about the emotions of a mom who has lost her child. But the flashbacks that show what happened to Amelia,leading up to the events of her death are filled with twists and turns. McCreight manages to balance the heartbreak with the mystery perfectly. It took me only two sittings to devour this book. You won't be disappointed!
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on March 29, 2015
I wouldn't say this was the next gone girl but I will say the chapters are similar as you are trying to piece together what happened and who's fault is Amelia's death.

I enjoyed the twists, I figured out who Amelia's dad was in like the first three chapters but the reveal was still good! I also liked that I was flipping through chapters caught up in the suspense because there were so many suspects and reasons as to why Amelia's could have been in the roof.

The ending to me was a little anticlimactic. I almost feel that Amelia's death was so completely unfair and it was like she died over something so petty that after reading things from her side it's just heart crushing.

Very fun, suspenseful read overall though! I really hope the HBO series does go in to production because I'd love to see Nicole Kidman as Kate!
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on April 30, 2014
I hate it when a publisher is foolish enough to compare a book with another popular title in order to boost sales. Reconstructing Amelia was compared to Gone Girl and I think that was a huge mistake, since Reconstructing Amelia is a fabulous book on its own merit, but it is no Gone Girl.
First of all, the target audience is very much different. Even with the alternating stories of mother/ daughter, it really does appeal more to the crowd who likes YA or young adult. Kate, Amelia’s mother, should make the book more attractive to some older readers, but I don’t see it. It still is a teen, school, mean girls drama, with a good dose of mystery.
That being said, I liked the book very much. There were plot twists throughout and I was surprised more often than not. Maybe that is where the claim of similarity to Gone Girl came from, but still…
The only issues that I had is that the pacing was off and there were some unrealistic pieces when it came to the investigation. The pacing never dragged, so please don’t be scared off by that, it was just that Amelia’s story was incredibly fast paced, making Kate’s story seem slower than it was, especially when it came to details about her career.
I am glad that I read Reconstruction Amelia, right through the end, but I am sure that it is NOT for everyone. If you like a storyline about adults, can’t accept a few unrealistic details in the name of a good story, or you don’t care to relate to the struggles of a teen trying to fit in, this is not for you. If you read YA there is little doubt that that you will love Amelia’s story as much as I did.
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