Reconstructing Amelia is aptly named for its story. Amelia allegedly commits suicide in the opening pages of the novel. Her mother Kate is a lawyer and a solo parent. She is understandingly devastated by her loss but after an anonymous text ‘she didn’t jump’ she channels her grief towards uncovering the truth about Amelia’s death. Kate sifts through texts, emails, facebook and so forth and finds out more about her daughter than she bargained for in the process.
What I liked about this novel was it’s structure. It is a non-linear narrative which jumps successfully between Kate’s perspective and Amelia’s perspective. The timeline is kept grounded through dated excerpts from facebook posts, chat conversations, blog posts, text messages and emails. It adds mystery to an already mysterious plot and is a clever way to reveal some key bits of information. I found it really engaging and while I know a lot of writers do this kind of thing I think this is one of the better examples of it.
What I didn’t like this novel was the way it dealt with some fairly major issues. Given the content described you might think that I’m about to say depression and suicide, but that’s not even it. Now, spoiler alert, this is the ‘more’ I mentioned before. Amelia gets involved with a secret club at school called the Maggies and sustains interest in this club, which she is much to sensible for, because of her growing romantic interest in a girl called Dylan. Yes. A girl called Dylan.
As a reader I found this pretty major theme to be poorly dealt with. There is very little foreshadowing except that she has an online friend called Ben who is gay and she knows which boys are hot but doesn’t find them attractive. Then suddenly she is in a full on relationship with a girl who she barely knows and doing all sorts of things that are out of character so she doesn’t risk losing her. I felt like while bits of this might be all too realistic, there is a missing middle step of questioning and wondering and reasoning. To be honest their whole relationship grated with my impression of Amelia up to that point. I felt like McCreight wanted it to be a plot twist so much that she didn’t invest the appropriate effort into how she approached it as a theme, which is in keeping with there being no reference to exploring or discovering sexuality in any of the book’s blurbs.
The main issue which is dealt with is bullying and this is done well. I think that there is a clear insight into the way social media and technology allow bullying to take place with little repercussions. Amelia had received a huge amount of hate which her mother had no idea about and those who dealt that hate would never have been held accountable for their actions without Amelia’s death being investigated.
There are some interesting twists which I really enjoyed regarding the question of Amelia’s father and also her death. I felt like for the most part the plot was well constructed with only a few loose threads.
I really wanted to like this book more. I read it because it appeared on a list of books being made into movies which featured a number of beloved novels. I might watch the movie when it comes out on dvd to see how it turns out. Nicole Kidman is starring in and producing the HBO adaptation.I think that people might enjoy this book going into it knowing a bit more what to expect. So, do I recommend it? Not wholeheartedly. However it is a first novel for Kimberley McCreight so it will be interesting to see how her writing processes.
My rating: 2/5