Book Review: Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight


Rating: 4.5 / 5

Kate Baron doesn’t have the perfect life, and she knows it.  However, she tries to make the best of what she’s got, which includes being junior partner at a prestigious law firm, and her teenage daughter Amelia.  Although she works long hours, she tries to carve out as much time for her daughter as possible, and vowed to never be like her own mother.  Amelia is shy and quiet, preferring to curl up with a book rather than hang out with classmates, so Kate is stunned when she gets a phone call from Amelia’s school claiming that Amelia has plagiarized her English paper.  When Kate arrives, however, she is completely shocked to be told that not only was Amelia suspected of plagiarizing, but then she committed suicide, jumping from the school roof.  It takes months before Kate can accept the fact that Amelia took her own life, but out of the blue one day she receives a text stating that Amelia did not jump. Grasping at any chance to find out exactly what happened to Amelia, Kate takes this opportunity to launch her own investigation into the details surrounding her daughter’s death.

I couldn’t get enough of this book, and I don’t normally gravitate towards books that discuss teen bullying.  Amelia attended a prestigious private school in the Park Slope area, and while the neighborhood is riddled with yuppies and affluent families, the school is rife with bullying and secret societies, that are in fact not so secret.  Reconstructing Amelia is woven from various angles; readers learn about Amelia’s trouble with school and fitting in through flashbacks and text messages, as well as Kate’s past. At some points, I was confused as to the timeline of events, especially the chapters begin with a time stamp and I was getting lost in the sequence.  However, I do see the point of how McCreight laid out the novel, and while a bit bumpy at times, it was overall effective.

What I loved about Reconstructing Amelia was how it was so gripping and compelling.  Amelia is a great kid, and its understandable how she just wanted to fit in and be accepted.  I don’t think she made one huge mistake, but it is more like she made a string of bad choices that got out of hand and escalated.  And its hard not to root for Kate.  As a single mother, she struggles to provide financially for herself and Amelia and make time to be there for her daughter.  It’s heartbreaking to read what Kate went through, and how every piece of information she uncovered about Amelia made her question if she really knew her daughter.

Reconstructing Amelia is timely and McCreight does a great job of handling the complex relationships between students, friends, and parents and the difficult issues with respect to student bullying.  Reconstructing Amelia takes off from the very first pages, and while it is sad and heartbreaking, you’ve got to admire McCreight’s storytelling ability.

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