April 23, 2014

Review: Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

It wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t been counting the minutes until I could forgive her. But it’s a lot harder to forgive someone who’s not looking to apologize.


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.

It is no secret that I am head over heels in love with the novel “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn and that I live for a fantastic psychological thriller. So while still reeling from the ending of “Gone Girl,” I searched for similar novels and came up with a list that just sounded intriguing. Which is how I came across Reconstructing Amelia. I had some fairly high hopes for McCreight’s debut novel and while it was actually a good novel, it was not quite what I was expecting.

When I first cracked open the book, I was excited. It started off as a mix of Pretty Little Liars meets Cruel Intentions 2 meets Law & Order. (Yes, I’m a giant sucker for semi-trashy, Lifetime movie-esque novels) But despite being a speedy read with enough tension to keep you wanting to read more, it fell short of it’s glowing reviews and promising storylines.

My biggest issue with Reconstructing Amelia has to be the characters. There isn’t one character that I truly loved. Amelia was the only one I had any interest in, but she’s already dead when the story starts so there’s no way to see her character gain any depth. You want to cheer for her, but there’s really no point. And as far as Kate goes, I really wanted to like her. But I just couldn’t do it. I completely understood her grief-stricken emotions – she just wasn’t likeable to me. In fact, Kate pretty much annoyed me. I hated how little she was around for Amelia. She prided herself on being a great mom and while she gains points on being pretty cool, she lost points for never being around for her teenage daughter.

My second issue is just how much insanity is packed into this novel. It’s like all the major hot button issues are packed into one storyline. Bullying/homosexuality/premarital sex/suicide/sexting/hazing/cheating and affairs … the list goes on and it can be enough to make your head spin. It’s a constant stream of “AND THEN” moments which can definitely be confusing. I actually think that several of those topics are extremely important to cover, but when you pack so many of them into one story, I feel as though the impact of those important issues gets lost in the shuffle.

In conclusion, I’m certainly not saying don’t read Reconstructing Amelia. It is in fact a fairly good novel. It is certainly an interesting and fast paced read. My advice is to just not give into the hype and read it without those expectations in your mind and get lost in the secret society goodness of hipsterfied Brooklyn while drinking an ice cold lemonade in the park on a sunny spring day.