Monday 15 July 2013

Book Review: Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight.

Product details:
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK.
Paperback, 400 pages.
Release date: June 20th 2013.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Ages: Adult
Source:Received from publisher for review.

Stressed single mother and law partner Kate is in the meeting of her career when she is interrupted by a telephone call to say that her teenaged daughter Amelia has been suspended from her exclusive Brooklyn prep school for cheating on an exam. Torn between her head and her heart, she eventually arrives at St Grace's over an hour late, to be greeted by sirens wailing and ambulance lights blazing. Her daughter has jumped off the roof of the school, apparently in shame of being caught. A grieving Kate can't accept that her daughter would kill herself: it was just the two of them and Amelia would never leave her alone like this. And so begins an investigation which takes her deep into Amelia's private world, into her journals, her email account and into the mind of a troubled young girl.

Then Kate receives an anonymous text saying simply: AMELIA DIDN'T JUMP. Is someone playing with her or has she been right all along?

 Mean Girls meets Gossip Girl with the page-turning intensity of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl in Reconstructing Amelia, the timely and thrilling debut novel from Kimberly McCreight.

Single-mom Kate Baron is in the middle of a Very Important Meeting at the law firm where she works when she gets phone call from Grace Hall, the exclusive private school her daughter Amelia attends. Kate is shocked to learn that Amelia has been suspended from school, even more shocked to find out that her suspension relates to a plagiarized English paper. This doesn’t make sense. Amelia is a star student, especially so in English where she excels under the guidance of her favourite teacher.  Kate rushes from work, but by the time she gets to Grace Hall an hour later, Amelia is dead. The verdict: suicide. But Kate knows that’s not the truth; She knows her daughter – and Amelia would never do such a thing. Would she? On returning to work weeks later Kate receives an anonymous text that both gives her hope and chills her to the bone:  Amelia didn’t jump. Now it’s up to Kate to find out the truth of her daughter’s death. To do that she must reconstruct the dark secrets of her daughter’s life by wading through the vast social network of Emails and texts that Amelia kept so well hidden from her. Plagued by guilt, Kate wonders if she, preoccupied with her career sometimes to the point of distraction, is to blame for all that happened to Amelia in the months before her death – all the things that her fifteen year old daughter could never bring herself to share with her. But, then, there are some things that a mother doesn’t need to know…

Reconstructing Amelia has drawn comparisons left, right and center to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. Last year every press release I received (no matter how inaccurate or inappropriate) arrived emblazoned with the words ‘For Fans of Fifty-Shades…’ This year, it’s Gone Girl. Does that mean Gone Girl is the new Fifty-Shades?! I guess my point is that as marketing ploys go, these comparisons are sometimes overused and sometimes wholly off the mark.  Thankfully, that’s not the case here. Well, not really. Because while Reconstructing Amelia and Gone Girl have a lot of great things in common: great premise, gripping page-turning intensity, Reconstructing Amelia is missing the shock factor of Flynn’s best-seller, and it’s missing the ending too. (I know, I know, you hated the ending of Gone Girl. I loved it.).

McCreight’s novel opens with an entry from gRaCeFULLY, Grace Hall’s Gossip Girl type blog, which details the scandalous lives of Grace Hall’s elite (see what I did there?!) And it’s a great opening. I want to know more. We learn of Grace Hall’s resident hottie, Carter Rose (Totally Nate Archibald) and a society of secret (banned) societies, including a group called The Maggies who I hear are recruiting. The author of gRaCeFULLY promises ‘one hell of a ride,’ and that’s just what Reconstructing Amelia is, with a plot that is full to brimming with twists at every turn. One of the most compelling mysteries of the novel is a correspondence between Amelia and Ben, a boy with whom Amelia shares all her secrets via obsessive correspondence through the medium of text.  But nobody, not Amelia’s mom and not her best friend, the sexually promiscuous Sylvia, has ever met Ben. And that’s just one of Amelia’s many secrets.

While I enjoy a great mystery and love a good plot twist, I have to say I found some of the revelations in Reconstructing Amelia disappointing and even a little hackneyed at times. Maybe it’s because I’ve read so many books of this type at this point, or maybe it’s just that McCreight, at times, fails to provide sufficient explanation for many of her ‘a-hah’ moments, preferring instead to rely on coincidence, and sometimes, not even that.  That said, while the ending of this one didn’t wow me, Reconstructing Amelia is a compelling book that kept me reading late into the night, and it’s a thoughtful one too in its inclusion of themes of bullying and sexuality, the power of money and our scary obsession with and reliance on social networking.  This one may not shock or surprise to the extent of Gone Girl, but fans of Flynn’s novel will certainly find much to enjoy here.


  1. ChristinaBookAddict15 July 2013 at 16:05

    This sounds pretty good. I especially like the comparisons to Gossip Girl--my fav! The mystery sounds riveting and I like that it's a page turner. I have yet to read Gone Girl though...I know- it's shameful! Thanks for the great review, Leanna!

  2. Oh my goodness, I immediately gasped aloud when I finished reading that synopsis! The premise is absolutely chilling and my heart broke for Kate, as no parent should have to bury their child. I can only imagine the guilt Kate carries around in the wake of Amelia's death. Women constantly have to make choices between their personal and professional lives and the constant pressure to do it all can be more than many can bear. This novel sounds absolutely gripping and I can't wait to read it. This was an insightful review and a true pleasure to read, Leanna! :) Wonderful work.

  3. daisychainbooks20 July 2013 at 10:34

    I recommend Gone Girl to everyone! It's so good. You need to read it before the movie releases! ;) This one is good too, although I'd have liked it to pack more punch at the end.

  4. daisychainbooks20 July 2013 at 10:34

    Thanks, Jen! The premise of this one is great, but I had hoped for something more spectacular in the outcome. I can't wait to read your thoughts if you review.


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