March 23, 2014
Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
2013 Harper Audio
Reader: Khristine Hvam
Finished on 1/23/14
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)
The real story of Amelia's life and death emerges slowly, through a creative blend of Kate's present, Amelia's past, and such varied communication methods as texts, e-mails, blog entries, and Facebook status updates. . . . McCreight portrays the darkness of adolescence, complete with doomed love, bullies, poisonous friendship, and insecurity. Fans of literary thrillers will enjoy the novel's dark mood and clever form.
— Publishers Weekly
Litigation lawyer and harried single mother Kate Baron is shocked when her daughter's exclusive Brooklyn private school calls to tell her that Amelia—her intelligent, high-achieving fifteen-year-old—has been caught cheating. But when Kate arrives at Grace Hall, she's blindsided by far more devastating news: Amelia is dead. Despondent, she's jumped from the school's roof. At least that's what Grace Hall and the police tell Kate. It's what she believes, too, until she gets the anonymous text: Amelia didn't jump. Now, Kate is going to find the truth—no matter where it leads. Sifting through Amelia's e-mails, text messages, and Facebook posts, Kate reconstructs the pieces of her daughter's life and the people in it, uncovering why she was on Grace Hall's roof that day—and how she died.
A superb blend of Tana French and Jodi Picoult, Reconstructing Amelia is a story of secrets and lies, friends and bullies. It's about how well any parent really knows their child and how far one mother will go to vindicate the memory of a daughter whose life she could not save.
I listened to this audio thriller a couple of months ago and while I’ve forgotten some of the more minute details, I do remember feeling an overwhelming sense of sadness for today’s children. When I was growing up, I knew who the mean girls were. I knew who enjoyed picking on those who weren’t cool or who didn’t fit in. I knew who egged my parents’ house and let the air out of the tires of my mom’s car. But with Facebook and texting, those “mean girls” can hide while they hurt and, possibly, destroy a life simply because they can. In this new age of cyber-bullying, it’s more difficult to know who your enemies are.
This compelling thriller kept me guessing from beginning to end, but it’s been two months since I finished the book and the story is quickly fading. I suppose a thriller, in spite of the dark undertones, can be considered “brain candy.” However, while somewhat forgettable, this story has left its mark and while I am breathing a sigh of relief that my daughter is past the age of this type of bullying, I do worry about my granddaughter and nieces. Unfortunately, it’s probably about time to talk to each of them and tell them they can always come to me if they are ever in a similar situation as Amelia. Sigh.
Behind the Book (an excerpt from the author’s website):
And how on earth—in a world so filled with dangers, big and small—will I ever keep them safe?
More than once, I’ve turned a corner on the way to pick up one of my children and seen an ambulance parked in front of one of their schools. Or at least that’s the way it looks, from several blocks away, down a busy Brooklyn avenue. Every time, I tell myself that my child has not accidentally eaten one of those cashews that she is so allergic to or fallen off the monkey bars or choked on a carrot. No, my child is fine.
And yet, I always walk a little faster, eyes locked on the ambulance, until I can confirm that it’s actually just parked, off-duty. Perhaps, I worry because I’m especially fatalistic. But I don’t think so. I think I worry because, deep down, I know the truth: that there is only so much I can do to protect my girls.
That’s what I thought a couple years back when I read about the star student and athlete who committed suicide by jumping out a window at Dalton. It’s what I thought about when I first heard about Tyler Clementi’s tragic leap from the George Washington Bridge after being surreptitiously taped. And it was brought back to me again when New Jersey teen Lennon Baldwin hanged himself allegedly in response to bullying.
My novel is told from the alternating perspectives of both Amelia and her mother Kate, to show how children—no matter how well-adjusted, no matter how well-loved—can be so easily singled out for abuse and suffer its inevitably heartbreaking consequences. Reconstructing Amelia explores how our children can get so terribly lost, despite the fact that we’re trying our best to keep them found.