Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Reconstructing Amelia

(Despite how it might appear, there are no spoilers in this review.  All the plot details I have mentioned are included on the book’s cover or as part of its publicity campaign.)

Kate Baron got a phone call one day that she never expected to get.  Her daughter, Amelia, is one of those kids parents never worry much about: academically gifted, popular, and with her head very much screwed on straight, she has a bright future.  But then it happens.  Someone from Amelia’s school calls Kate right in the middle of one of the most important business meetings of her career to tell her that her daughter has been suspended, effective immediately, by the school.  The sooner she picks Amelia up, the better - and no questions will be answered over the phone, thank you very much.

Under immense pressure to get to the school as soon as she can, Kate does not totally panic until she spots police officers, an ambulance, and fire trucks in front of the school.  Her mother’s instincts tell her that Amelia is in danger, and when she glimpses what appears to be a body on the ground surrounded by policemen, she rushes toward it.

The school’s theory is that Amelia, embarrassed to have been caught cheating, has jumped to her death from the school’s roof.  Kate reluctantly comes to believe that Amelia, despite having no reason to ever cheat on any kind of school exam, has indeed killed herself.  But then she gets a mysterious, anonymous text saying simply: “She didn’t jump.”  Now Kate intends to “reconstruct” her daughter’s last hours so that she can learn the truth.

Kimberly McCreight
Reconstructing Amelia is Kimberly McCreight’s debut novel, a novel that, judging from the major media campaign associated with it, its publisher highly believes in.  By using a series of texts, Facebook postings, and emails, the author is able to use both Amelia and her mother as first person narrators.  And as events of Amelia’s final few days unfold, both the reader and Kate will learn how little Kate really knew about what was going on in her daughter’s life.  Amelia’s world, although it was a typical teen setting in many ways, was more threatening and dangerous than most because of the sophistication and wealth of some of the students at the prestigious private school she attended.  Things are seldom as they seem there.

The novel does not work as well as one might expect because neither Amelia nor Kate are particularly realistic characters despite the horrible things that happen to them.  However, I do suspect that female readers of Reconstructing Amelia are likely to disagree with me, and that I might be well outside the book’s target audience.  Bottom line for me: this is an interesting debut novel that shows much promise for the author’s future works.  I will remember the name Kimberly McCreight.

(Review Copy provided by Publisher)

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