2013.34 REVIEW – Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
Posted by Tara
by Kimberly McCreight
Read: Aug. 2-6, 2013
Challenge: What’s in a Name 6 Challenge
Yearly count: 34
Blurb: When Kate, single mother and law firm partner, gets an urgent phone call summoning her to her daughter’s exclusive private school, she’s shocked. Amelia has been suspended for cheating, something that would be completely out of character for her over-acheiving, well-behaved daughter.
Kate rushes to Grace Hall, but what she finds when she finally arrives is beyond her comprehension.
Her daughter Amelia is dead.
Despondent over having been caught cheating, Amelia has jumped from the school’s roof in an act of impulsive suicide. At least that’s the story Grace Hall and the police tell Kate. In a state of shock and overcome by grief, Kate tries to come to grips with this life-shattering news. Then she gets an anonymous text:
Amelia didn’t jump.
The moment she sees that message, Kate knows in her heart it’s true. Clearly Amelia had secrets, and a life Kate knew nothing about. Wracked by guilt, Kate is determined to find out what those secrets were and who could have hate her daughter enough to kill. She searches through Amelia’s e-mails, texts, and Facebook updates, piecing together the last troubled days of her daughter’s life.
Reconstructing Amelia is a stunning debut page-turner that brilliantly explores the secret world of teenagers, their clandestine first loves, hidden friendships, and the dangerous cruelty that can spill over into acts of terrible betrayal.
Review: What. A. Book. Undoubtedly this book will make it on my Top Reads list at the end of the year. It’s just one of those books that really sucks you in and spits you back out when you finish the last page. There’s just so much to talk about this book, I don’t really know where to start.
I will try to keep spoilers at a minimum, but definitely read this review with caution.
First, I guess I should talk about my experience as a teenager in high school. To a certain extent, during my junior year, I was bullied. For whatever reason there was this one girl who was absolutely out to get me. Looking back on it, I still try to figure out what on earth I ever did to her, and the only thing I can think of is that she was just plain jealous of me (why, I will never know, but whatever). However, it hurt deeply at the time. Luckily it started and stopped pretty much with this one girl, but for about 4 months it was non-stop. Then one day it stopped as quickly as it started. I never cracked under her pressure. I put on a brave face at school and pushed through it. But I was absolutely aching inside. I still had a lot of good friends behind me, but she sure did manage to wreak havoc. Having said all that, I know it could have been worse. I was in high school before the huge Facebook/Twitter/Texting explosion happened. We had cell phones (we all had those Nokia’s that had the changeable faceplates!) and MSN instant messenger. And yeah, things got around … but not in the instant that it can now. So for that, I was lucky. But I can definitely feel for those teenagers (or tweens) who are being bullied today. It hurts, no matter how it’s happening to you.
So for this reason, I take books about bullying a little differently than some might. I can definitely connect to the character being bullied more than other readers might. And it’s for this reason that I really loved Amelia’s character. When we first meet her she doesn’t care about what others think. She has her best friend, Sylvia, and a mother who, while somewhat absent, definitely loves her, and that’s all she needs. Oh and it doesn’t hurt that she’s super smart and on the field hockey team, too. She’s carved out a nice place for herself in her school. But all that changes when she gets tapped for a club. And as someone who wanted to be accepted and popular in high school more than anything, I can understand why she was curious about joining. But I felt bad for Amelia too when she got tapped. She knew something was off, she knew she had no business being there … she could have walked away, but she didn’t. And that was the beginning of her downfall. I felt like I was watching a really good girl change into someone she wasn’t as I continued to read the book. She started lying to everyone. She started doing things out of character. And then it all backfired on her.
I guess I should mention now that the book is told in alternating views between Amelia and her mother, Kate. And I felt really bad for Kate’s character. She got pregnant unexpectedly in law school. She chose to keep the baby. But something about her irritated me. I guess it was because she was so absent in her daughter’s life. I mean, I know she tried, and I know she loved Amelia … but you don’t become partner at a NYC law firm easily. She was putting in some major hours and I felt like her relationship with her daughter definitely suffered. You could tell that she felt guilty about it, and Amelia was too headstrong to ask her mom for help. Personally I don’t have an important career. Yes, I have a job outside of the home … but I work for my dad and my son comes first and that’s just how it’s going to be. I don’t really know what it would be like to try to juggle a demanding career and a family, but I can imagine that if you were a single parent, it would probably go the way it did for Kate and Amelia.
The remaining adult characters in this book. Just … wow. You would expect adults to act like adults and children to act like children. But it seems a lot of times those roles were reversed in this book. And as the book started to come to a close and things were finally revealed, it was absolutely shocking at times. I finished this book on Monday and I’m still reeling from some of the revelations.
Overall I highly recommend this book. I think it’s a really good read. But I must warn you, it’s not a sugar-coated, G-rated book. So take that into account if you have issues with reading foul language and sexual situations.
But I think that this is a book that all parents should read at some point. It’s definitely eye-opening, and while I’m still 14 years away from any situations like the ones in this book, it is truly something that we as parents need to be aware of so that we can hopefully guide our children in the right direction.