Author: Kimberly McCreight
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Release Date: December 3rd, 2013
15 year old Amelia Baron is dead, but her mother Kate knows there is more to Amelia’s death than her school, or the police are letting on. Kate carries a tremendous amount of guilt for not being there more for her daughter during her life, but now, she’s determined to find out what actually happened to her Amelia. In Reconstructing Amelia, we see Kate’s search through Amelia’s life for clues about her death, the day to day life of a 15 year old girl that despite all her efforts, Kate knew so little about. Altering points of view between Kate, Amelia, and a harsh anonymous blog about the social goings on of her school, it quickly becomes clear that Amelia’s last few months of life were anything but simple.
Wading through the grief of losing her only real family, her only child, Kate knows that nothing about the story fits. Amelia was a model student at her prestigious Brooklyn private school Grace Hall. She was studious, kind, and an asset to her school’s field hockey team. Amelia was quiet and had only one true friend, her lifelong best friend Sylvia, but she wasn’t completely miserable about her life.
Kate knows there is more than what the school is letting on about what happened to her daughter. Amelia was accused of plagiarizing a paper for her favorite class, a paper on To The Lighthouse by her favorite author, Virginia Woolf. Kate, Sylvia and the school staff knows that Amelia didn’t need to cheat on the paper, that she knew the novel by heart. Amelia was never one to contemplate suicide no matter how grim her situation may have been.
Kate begins to search through Amelia’s text messages and emails to try and uncover more about what could have lead up to Amelia’s suspension and death. With the help of a new police detective, Kate beings to learn that Amelia’s troubles were far greater than a school paper. Secret clubs, code names, young love, jealousy, intense bullying and friendship all culminated in Amelia’s life just before her death.
The back and forth between Amelia, Kate, the past, emails, texts, and the anynoumously written school gossip blog make Reconstructing Amelia a heartbreaking page turner. Amelia is the kind of kid that would make any parent proud. The level of pain she endures in the name of friendship, respect, and love among her peers is equally astonishing and heartbreaking.
While Kate uncovers what Amelia was dealing with in her own world, she is forced to face truths about her past, about Amelia’s father, and the role his identity plays in their lives.
Reconstructing Amelia is heart wrenching because it reads like a true account. While the story isn’t based on actual events, hazing, lying, and struggling to find acceptance happens daily in schools everywhere. Kate is flawed but strong, she isn’t afraid to admit to her past and yet, she tries so hard to protect her daughter from the consequences of her own mistakes.
McCreight’s story is haunting, imaginative, raw, and almost too realistic. This story is so well structured, the secrets keep coming. Just when you think it can’t get any more heartbreaking, any more shocking, this book sweeps you off your feet.
Consistently thrilling and never pretentious, Reconstructing Amelia is everything a novel should be — creative, emotional, and impactful. Amelia’s story is one that quietly digs it’s way into your mind and takes residence, refusing to let go after you’ve finished the story.