Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
Without a doubt, Kimberly McCreight‘s bestselling debut contains every parent’s every nightmare, beginning with the absolute worst at the end of the first full chapter: “I’m sorry, Mrs. Baron. But your daughter, Amelia, is dead.”
Her 15-year-old body lies broken on the grounds of her posh private school in Brooklyn. The official ruling is “impulsive suicide” following a suspension for cheating. But “four weeks, two days, and sixteen hours since Amelia had leaped off the roof of Grace Hall,” her devastated single mother, Kate, returns to her high-power law firm office, and receives an anonymous text: “Amelia didn’t jump.”
And so Kate begins ‘reconstructing’ what happened that tragic afternoon, and how her bright, talented, well-loved, never-trouble-causing, near-perfect daughter ended up a teenage fatality. With all the comparisons to megaseller-coming-to-a-multiplex-near-you, Gone Girl, a more fitting title might have been Gone Good Girl. Because the Amelia that Kate was so sure of, isn’t really who her daughter had become in just the few short months before she died. The one detail Kate knows as truth, however, is that Amelia didn’t cheat, at least not on that Virginia Woolf paper, whose work Amelia knew better than even her favorite teacher. Everything else is another story … and then some.
All that social media overload proves raw and exposing. Thanks to a savvy IT-wizard at her office, Kate discovers a virtual Amelia she never knew: first love, lost love, old friends and new, a vicious blog (I’m still trying to figure out the significance of the lettering in GraCeFULLY: “Because there are 176 definitions of the word loser on urbandictionary.com. Don’t be a statistic”), and a student (!) club that takes viciousness to unparalleled extremes. And those are just the kids … just imagine the adults who created them – parents, steps, teachers, oh my.
In spite of a few improbable plot twists (a too-conveniently dirty cop, jealous (supposed-to-be-legal) partners willing to compete above the law, unscrupulous teachers, and ‘who’s your Daddy’ indeed), you’ll find any excuse to keep the story going. Choosing audible might help you along: narrator Khristine Hvam is mostly fine stuck in the ears – McCreight’s superb pacing will get you through Hvam’s occasional shrillness, and even her cringe-inducing accents. In the quest to learn whodunnit sooner than later, commuting, dishes, laundry, running another five miles, all become welcome reading opportunities. Whatever your plans for the day, just know you’ll get little else done: you won’t be able to stop until Amelia reveals all.