Saturday, 8 March 2014

Sister Reads | Review: Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight


Book: Reconstructing Amelia

Author: Kimberly McCreight

Pages: 400

Time Taken to Read: 6-7 hours off-and-on over 2 days

Plot Summary: Litigation lawyer and harried single mother Kate Baron is stunned when her daughter's exclusive private school in Park Slope, Brooklyn, calls with disturbing news: her intelligent, high-achieving fifteen-year-old daughter, Amelia, has been caught cheating.

Kate can't believe that Amelia, an ambitious, levelheaded girl who's never been in trouble would do something like that. But by the time she arrives at Grace Hall, Kate's faced with far more devastating news. Amelia is dead. 

Seemingly unable to cope with what she'd done, a despondent Amelia has jumped from the school's roof in an act of "spontaneous" suicide. At least that's the story Grace Hall and the police tell Kate. And overwhelmed as she is by her own guilt and shattered by grief, it is the story that Kate believes until she gets the anonymous text: 

She didn't jump.

Sifting through Amelia's emails, text messages, social media postings, and cell phone logs, Kate is determined to learn the heartbreaking truth about why Amelia was on Grace Hall's roof that day-and why she died.

Told in alternating voices, Reconstructing Amelia is a story of secrets and lies, of love and betrayal, of trusted friends and vicious bullies. It's about how well a parent ever really knows a child and how far one mother will go to vindicate the memory of a daughter whose life she could not save.

What I Liked: I was drawn immediately by the premise of this book. A mother, who has just about been through the absolute worst that any parent can ever go through, trying to piece together her daughter's life and movements that led right up to her "spontaneous suicide". The book is an interesting read and very fast paced as it moved between Kate's effort to get back on her feet after Amelia's death and getting to see Amelia's life and the things she was going through right up to the moment of her death. 
Kate's journey of discovering her daughter's secret life was poignant and eye-opening at the same time. I mean, the book alludes to Kate and Amelia being very close and sharing an open relationship, but there were so many things going on in Amelia's life- stuff at school, about her sex life etc.- that Kate knew nothing about. It was all this, in some ways, that led to Amelia's death and which, makes you wonder how much can you really know someone unless they opt to share things with you. As a parent, Kate trusted Amelia and gave her space and seeing Kate struggle with the appropriateness of that decision struck a chord with me. 
The book is also well-written- both Kate and Amelia's chapters ring true to age and lifestage as well as seem seamless yet not jarring. Not sure if that made a whole lot of sense, but what I am trying to say is that when books are written in two different voices, often these two voices seem very similar or just way too different.. to the point of being disjointed.. but that was not the case in this book, which I liked. 

What I Didn't Like: The ultimate "twist" in the tale was not very predictable, but it was a  bit too convenient. Don't want to spoil anything here but if you read the book, you'll see what I mean. 
Also, again don't want to spoil anything, but this whole Ben thing turned out to be such a disappointment. Ben is, supposedly, a guy who is going to the same Summer Journalism program that Amelia was going to attend and they develop this deep friendship over text messages and such like. Who Ben really is, to me, felt like a real cop-out and also, the person who was pretending to be Ben really screwed up, knowing what he knew and not doing anything about it. 
I also didn't enjoy the whole clubs and their hazing thing that Amelia was going through. For someone who is so intelligent and sensible and who was clear she didn't want to join any clubs, Amelia acted like a Grade A Moron (anyone who gets the 30 Rock reference here is AWESOME!). 

Will You Like It?: I think you will like it because it is a well-written book about relationships and choices and the power of secrets- what they can do to us and how they really isolate us from the people we love. The book may also make you think, which is always a good thing for books to do :) 

Rating: 4/5 

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