Review: Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

I received this book for free from YA Books Central in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreightReconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
Published by Harper Perennial on December 3, 2013
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Source: YA Books Central
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In Reconstructing Amelia, the stunning debut novel from Kimberly McCreight, Kate's in the middle of the biggest meeting of her career when she gets the telephone call from Grace Hall, her daughter's exclusive private school in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Amelia has been suspended, effective immediately, and Kate must come get her daughter--now. But Kate's stress over leaving work quickly turns to panic when she arrives at the school and finds it surrounded by police officers, fire trucks, and an ambulance. By then it's already too late for Amelia. And for Kate.

An academic overachiever despondent over getting caught cheating has jumped to her death. At least that's the story Grace Hall tells Kate. And clouded as she is by her guilt and grief, it is the one she forces herself to believe. Until she gets an anonymous text: She didn't jump.

Reconstructing Amelia is about secret first loves, old friendships, and an all-girls club steeped in tradition. But, most of all, it's the story of how far a mother will go to vindicate the memory of a daughter whose life she couldn't save.

Fans of Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl will find Reconstructing Amelia just as gripping and surprising.

Going in, I knew that Reconstructing Amelia probably wouldn’t be a Christina book. Mysteries are just not my genre of choice. They’re very plot-based and I’m a character-based reader. It’s hard to care about the resolution if I don’t care about the characters, and mystery readers care about the mystery more than the people, as a general rule. Still, I like to try new things occasionally and I’d heard good buzz about this particular mystery. Objectively, I think it’s a really good mystery, but I was left with pretty mild feelings for it, because, though more character-based than most, it still didn’t bring me the feels.

The first half of the book was a bit slow, but really picked up once Kate began seriously investigating her daughter’s death. The book alternates between Kate and Amelia’s third person perspectives, as well as including Amelia’s texts and Facebook statuses. Kate’s timeline runs from the day of the accident until the mystery has been solved. Amelia’s runs from what started everything through her death, where obviously it has to stop. The inclusion of the texts and statuses was a nice touch, a different view into Amelia’s relationships.

Personally, I found Amelia’s sections more interesting, because they read like a contemporary YA novel, meaning they were more character-focused. Kate’s sections were the mystery part, and will no doubt be interesting to readers who enjoy that aspect more than I do. The mystery itself is interesting, don’t get me wrong. I definitely wanted to know what had happened, and the book became a real page-turner at about the halfway point.

Amelia attends a pompous private school,Grace Hall in New York City. The drama at the school is very Gossip Girl, only more so. There’s actually even a Gossip-Girl style blog called gRaCeFULLY, which discusses the various scandals in the school. That’s not all though; the school has secret societies with hazing and pranks. That was all a bit melodramatic for my tastes at first, but my favorite aspect was the way the book dealt very tastefully with sexuality.

The resolution leaves me with a handful of qualms however. First, the actually reason she died really didn’t work for me. View Spoiler » Then there’s the gossip blog, which, actually, seems to have been entirely unnecessary to the plot. Nothing ever happens with the person who was writing it. We find out and it’s just dropped. Um, excuse me, but I would like to know about that. View Spoiler » In general, I’d just like a sense about where Kate was left. Did she keep working at her law firm? Will she try to reconnect with that old flame? If not, why were the emails included in the book. If not, why do I care about that?

Despite my few hesitations, this is one that I’ll recommend to mystery readers. They mystery itself is compelling, the candidates for murderer many, and the narrative style engaging.

Favorite Quote:

But that was part of what made Sylvia so great, too. She had this ginormous, out-of-control heart that gobbled up everything in its path. It was nice to be near it, especially because sometimes I could barely feel my own heart beating beneath the weight of my hyperactive brain.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

Gossip Girl I just keeping trying to figure out what was real

2 responses to “Review: Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight”

  1. Hannah says:

    Great review! I’m not a huge mystery fan, but I do pick up a book in the genre from time to time. I seem to enjoy mysteries in the private-school setting – thinking of Joanne Harris’ Gentlemen and Players, and Anita Shreve’s Testimony – so this would be right up my alley.

  2. Lesley says:

    Oooh, someone else has read this! I felt very similarly to you, I much preferred Amelia’s chapters and it took me such a long time to get into the book. Interesting that you received it from YA Books Central, I picked it up on the assumption that it was an adult book that happened to be about a teenager and kind of felt that ran true throughout. Also interesting that the cover’s slightly different to the one I have, making it seem more YA-ish, I guess. On the one I have, Amelia’s wearing a very smart and very nice red coat rather than a hoodie and jeans.
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