Thursday, 10 October 2013

RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

Stressed single mother and law partner Kate is in the meeting of her career when she is interrupted by a telephone call to say that her teenaged daughter Amelia has been suspended from her exclusive Brooklyn prep school for cheating on an exam. Torn between her head and her heart, she eventually arrives at St Grace's over an hour late, to be greeted by sirens wailing and ambulance lights blazing. Her daughter has jumped off the roof of the school, apparently in shame of being caught. A grieving Kate can't accept that her daughter would kill herself: it was just the two of them and Amelia would never leave her alone like this. And so begins an investigation which takes her deep into Amelia's private world, into her journals, her email account and into the mind of a troubled young girl. Then Kate receives an anonymous text saying simply: AMELIA DIDN'T JUMP. Is someone playing with her or has she been right all along?
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I really, really liked this book. That's not something I get to say very often, especially about a book that I was greatly looking forward to. I think part of the reason I wasn't disappointed here is that I actually found it quite difficult to get into at first. It's quite slow to start, especially given the dramatic action that kickstarts the story, and I was worried that I'd signed up for a long, difficult read.

And then a few chapters in, I was completely engrossed. The story flits between Amelia in the days leading up to her death, and Kate in the weeks following it. This builds to dramatic conclusions in both cases, and the tension in the final quarter of the book is almost intolerable. I stayed up very late, determined to finish it before I went to bed because I just had to know what happened.

Amelia's sections of the story were, to me at least, quite reminiscent of the Gossip Girl TV series - teenagers attending an elite prep school, and all the bitching and backstabbing and sheer brutality that goes on there. I'm a big Gossip Girl fan and so I loved these sections, but I felt they were nicely off-set by Kate's chapters, which had a much more serious tone. Their relationship is what ties it all together, though, and I couldn't help comparing it to my relationship with my own mother. The whole idea of how much does she really know about you was compelling, and to see both sides of that was really unusual. 

There were, of course, parts that I didn't get along with so well, in particular the way in which Amelia's death was investigated, both by the police and then by Kate. Not being an expert in forensic investigation or anything technological, there were multiple times when I doubted what I was being told. Perhaps somebody could download all the emails and texts that Amelia ever sent in her entire lifetime and print them out, without access to any of her passwords, but it seemed unlikely to me. The speed at which things happened didn't seem right to me either. Overall, though, I really enjoyed this book. I would highly recommend it, although I would make sure to add a warning about powering through the slow start - it gets really good, honest.



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