Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Despite a couple of niggles and one peeve, this is getting five stars. In part, that's due to the difference in the voices, something many authors get wrong when writing from different points-of-view, and in part it's because this felt plausible.
Amelia is the only child of single mother Kate, and is one of those smart, funny, intellectual students schools love. She's best friends with Sylvia (the two of them are e+ssentially their own clique) and becoming very close to Ben, her textbuddy. One day she is tapped for a secret all-girls club at her relatively elite - yet progressive - independent school, physically modeled on Park Slope's Berkley Carroll School. Being part of the Magpies isn't something that Amelia really wants, but there are reasons to join... and, of course, that ultimately has tragic consequences when she ends up suspended from school and, moments later, dead on the sidewalk after falling from the school's roof.
Kate is naturally in shock, completely shaken after her daughter's death. Then she gets a test suggesting that Amelia didn't jump, which is all Kate needs to start trying to find out what was going on in her daughter's life in the months prior to her death. Was she pushed? Was this an accident?
The two stories, Amelia's last few months and Kate's search for the truth, are nicely intertwined and (as mentioned earlier) told in different voices. The use of texting, Facebook and e-mail to help tell Amelia's story reflects how teens today interact and didn't feel like a gimmick.
So, the niggles. First off, the setting. It wasn't really necessary to name the bars, coffee shops, pizza joints and streets in Park Slope to set the scene. Unless you know that area, the name Ozzies won't mean anything. Ditto Tea Lounge. And who cares how many streets it takes to get from Garfield to Second? Readers probaby won't be whipping out their maps to check! To me it felt a little like reading one of Stephen King's novels where he lists the entire contents of a kitchen cabinet, or as though the stores paid the author for product placement. Next niggle, it was a little predictable, with only one real twist. But that's me, and other readers may be surprised by who done it, why and the other reveals.
The peeve? The "Gracefully" blog. Too Gossip Girl. When I talk to my students, it's more likely that there'll be a private FB page than a tell all blog. This was written before the Big Reveal in GG, but who was behind Gracefully? Not credible and rather distasteful.
ARC provided by publisher.