Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight: Read this if

Well, that was something of an unputdownable. Reconstructing Amelia's premise may be one you'd want to keep at arm's length (busy, successful attorney mom whose teenage daughter takes a deadly fall off the roof of her fancy private school under mysterious circumstances), but once you start reading Kimberly McCreight's debut novel (but not her first!), you might not be able to do much else until you finish.

Kate Baron is your typical (but not stereotypical) high-powered, workaholic single mom, trying to juggle job responsibilities with parenting Amelia, an athletic, nerdy teenager not so popular with the cool kids. Because of her mom's job, Amelia is left to fend for herself much of the time, and Kate, like most parents, feels incredibly guilty about the time she doesn't have for her daughter and has very little idea of the crazy turn Amelia's life takes at the beginning of her sophomore year. Both Amelia and Kate come across as very real, both fully fleshed out and completely believable - people you'd probably want to know in real life. Well, if you're me, anyway.

Also, just because Amelia dies at the beginning does not mean we don't get to know her - the narrative mostly jumps between Amelia's first-person experience in the immediate past and Kate's third-person impressions of the present, all set in motion by an anonymous text to Kate: she didn't jump. The bullying Amelia suffers is absolutely heart-wrenching, making me beyond glad that texting and facebook and the internet weren't around when I was in high school - with so many tools at their disposal, kids have too many more means to a vicious end - it's just horrifying, and this book really brings that new avenue for teenage humiliation to life. The novel manages to cover all the confusion that goes along with being a teenager and discovering who you are and who you want to be as well as all the inner conflicts of trying to be everything as a parent and knowing you're just setting yourself up to fail, complete with Gossip Girl like setting. But it's not without hope, or redemption.

You should definitely read this if:
  • You're looking for a fast, gripping, unputdownable novel.
  • You can follow novels that jump around on a timeline.
  • You're a recovering bully.
  • You've been wondering what would happen on a darker version of The Gilmore Girls.
  • You want to see how a novel could seamlessly combine a mystery with the intricacies of female relationships with one another, with a little law firm & private school politics thrown in. 

Don't read this if: 
  • You're a very recent bullying victim.
  • Anything that discusses sex or sexuality makes you queasy.
  • You find minor mistakes in timelines hopelessly distracting (--> I read an uncorrected proof, and am hoping that has been resolved in the final edition or that I just read something wrong). 
  • You prefer to remain blissfully ignorant of what your teenager is doing. 
  • You don't like starting at the end and working your way backwards (sort of). 

*I received this book through of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review. I'm not the last word - see what others had to say.

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