Reconstructing Amelia by Kmberly McCreight – 380 pages
Kate’s in the middle of the biggest meeting of her career when she gets the telephone call from Grace Hall, her daughter’s exclusive private school in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Amelia has been suspended, effective immediately, and Kate must come get her daughter—now. But Kate’s stress over leaving work quickly turns to panic when she arrives at the school and finds it surrounded by police officers, fire trucks, and an ambulance. By then it’s already too late for Amelia. And for Kate.
An academic overachiever despondent over getting caught cheating has jumped to her death. At least that’s the story Grace Hall tells Kate. And clouded as she is by her guilt and grief, it is the one she forces herself to believe. Until she gets an anonymous text: She didn’t jump.
My Review: 3.5 stars
Reconstructing Amelia is a mystery that begs us to ask how well we really know our kids. The book starts with 15-year-old overachiever Amelia committing suicide at her posh, private New York school. Her hardworking single mother is left to find out the truth of what really happened. The story is narrated by either Kate or Amelia, except those in an epistolary format, constructed through texts, Fcebook and blog posts.
I thought it was quite clever to delve into how conversations and messages on social media led to clues being discovered about Amelia’s death. So much that goes on behind closed doors that no one knows about, yet much of it is revealed on these social networks. That being said, the way these children texted seemed outdated and almost as if the author was trying to hard to make them sound like teenagers. I asked my two kids (aged 20 and 23) about some of the phrases and lingo used and they both had the same reaction: it seemed forced, and wasn’t realistic to how a high school student would be texting, or instant messaging her close friends.
The characters did have a lot of depth Kate and Amelia’s relationship was something that I loved learning more and more about as the book went on. Even as Amelia got older and they struggled to keep their close bond, you could tell how much they loved each other. Kate’s determination and frustration about finding out what really happened really drives the book forward.
I definitely think the first half of the book was better than the second, which is surprising for a thriller. I suppose it’s because the author started adding in new plot twists without thinking through how to resolve them. There were too many big reveals that that left me confused as to why they were even part of the book.
The book seemed like a mash up of Gossip Girl & a Lifetime movie. It was a mix of suspense, the coming-of-age, mother-daughter relationships, high school drama and long-kept secrets. There was no real wow factor that made the book astonishing, but it was a quick beach read that nailed all the major points of a thriller, including an ending tied up neat with a red bow.
Look for the movie adaptation. I won’t spoil it with the proposed cast, but it should make for a good film.
Quotes I liked:
Clothes were to Sylvia what books were to me: the only thing that really mattered.”
-“Everyone has beacons. Lights that guide them home.”
-“But it’s a lot harder to forgive someone who’s not looking to apologize.”
-“Sometimes its hard to tell how fast the current’s moving until you’re headed over a waterfall”