Friday, March 28, 2014

Reconstructing Amelia, by Kimberly McCreight

Reconstructing Amelia, although not advertised as such, is really a mystery: attorney and single mom Kate Baron is trying to figure out why her daughter fell/jumped off the roof at her private school in Brooklyn. At first ruled a suicide, Amelia's death is reinvestigated when Kate receives several emails saying "She didn't jump." The narrative is constructed in an interesting way--through first-person narratives from Amelia's point of view, beginning with the start of sophomore year and ending with her death and through third-person narratives from Kate's perspective, beginning with Amelia's death and ending (except for an epilogue) with the resolution of what happened. Interspersed throughout are texts between Amelia and friends, Amelia's Facebook posts, blog posts from a gossip site about Amelia's school, and emails and recollections from the time when Kate got pregnant.

Unfortunately, the mystery doesn't really work--all of the plot twists are foreshadowed too heavily so that nothing is a surprise and it's completely ridiculous to think that a police lieutenant would allow the victim's mother to accompany him as he questions witnesses and suspects. On the other hand, the book is effective in terrifying parents (or in my case grandparents) of girls--Amelia went from a happy high-achieving kid to an emotional wreck, bullied by a club of "cool girls," pressured by the school administration to turn in members of the group that they had failed to control, and betrayed by her favorite teacher and her closest friends--and that's just scratching the surface of the things her mother did not know were going on in her life. Disturbing!

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