Sunday, July 21, 2013

Review: Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
HarperCollins
April 2013
Format: Harcover, 384 pages
Source: Personal copy


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-achieving, well-behaved daughter.

Kate rushes to Grace Hall, but what she finds when she finally arrives is beyond 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 hated 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.

My thoughts: This is the first book that the book club I'm involved in, the Book Lovers Unite on-line book club, read and I thought it was a fantastic pick. I'm not sure that I would have picked up this book if not for the book club, so I'm glad they chose it.

This is the type of book that you have a hard time putting down. While I did stick to the reading schedule so as not to give any spoilers during the discussions, I really wanted to keep reading and probably could have read it in one sitting. But, having the discussions really made me think more when I was reading and to rethink about what I had already read.

There's so much going on in this book and it's easy to miss some of it if you read too fast. The way that Kimberly McCreight writes - using a combination of prose, text messages, emails, facebook posts, and snippets from old journals, along with the latest posts on the school's blog - all unite to tell a powerful tale.

Kate and Amelia had what Kate thought was a pretty good relationship. Kate worked a lot and Amelia was often left on her own, but they still managed to spend some time together. It isn't until Kate starts looking into Amelia's death that she realizes just how much she didn't know about her daughter. As the investigation progresses, secrets come out bit by bit and I found myself yelling out "WHAT?" and "OMG!" quite a few times during the last third of the book. 


One of the issues that comes up in this book, and ironically, happened to come up in another book I was reading at the same time, is the use of social media by teens. Just how much should parenting be monitoring their teenagers' use of texting, facebook and even the internet? In this case, the texting between Amelia and Ben turns out to be something much more than Amelia could ever have envisioned. Plus there's the whole issue of the school blog posts - they are quite close to being considered bullying and when we find out who the author is - it's mind-boggling!

I'm definitely going to be keeping Kimberly McCrieight on my list of authors to watch out for...this was an amazing debut and I can't wait to see what she writes next!

How do you feel about reading books that touch upon social issues? It is your kind of read or not?


2 comments:

  1. I've had my eye on this book since it came into the bookshop where I work, and keep returning to it to sneak peeks inside, so it looks as though I'm going to have to buy it. Great review, and I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    I feel relieved that the internet, especially social media sites, blogs, etc, were not a big deal when I was a teenager just a decade ago - Bebo existed, chatrooms and forums, but there wasn't that sense of the internet being everywhere and people you know being inescapable. I'm relieved I'm not a kid now. It must be so worrying to be a parent in this day and age, the dilemmas of trust and privacy, versus the child's safety. Looks like a really thought-provoking read. Thanks for the recommendation.

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  2. Recently I've noticed that one of the things I really like in sci fi books is when they address a deeper moral issue (cloning, for example). But more contemporary books that deal with societal questions aren't something I read a lot of. Maybe I should give them more of a try though, given my feelings about the sci fi books :)

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