Reconstructing Amelia By Kimberly McCreight * Book Review

Reconstructing Amelia follows the story of working mother, Kate, who receives a call one day from her teenage daughter’s school telling her that her daughter, Amelia, has been suspended and needs to be picked up. Due to traffic and work obstacles, Kate arrives at the school late, and by the time she does, there are police surrounding the school and pointing bystanders. A girl has jumped from the roof of the building and is dead. Kate is horrified to find out that the girl is her intelligent, seemingly happy daughter, Amelia. The death is ruled a suicide but Kate can’t accept it as such and searches for a more plausible explanation for her daughter’s unexpected and premature death. Did Amelia really have hidden demons that provoked her to jump off of her school building or was she pushed? Kate will find out.

The book is a riveting suspense novel, one that will have you hooked almost from the beginning. The chapters alternate between the perspectives of mother, Kate, and accounts of the time leading up to Amelia’s death by Amelia herself (you can see her Facebook posts, her SMS messages to her friends and an array of stories). We find out there was a lot going on behind the scenes of Amelia’s life – more than even her best friend, Sylvia, knew.

By the last one hundred pages, you will most likely not be able to put the book down. Though Kate and Amelia’s relationship was somewhat damaged by Kate’s long work schedule, the two had a close and loving relationship that brought me to tears a couple times – knowing the outcome of fifteen year old daughter, Amelia.

OK, a few things: Amelia should have come clear with her mother about her extra-curricular activities (joining the Magpies), about her sexual orientation (yes, she’s Gay and very much in love with another Magpie called Dylan) and totally when the bullying started. Girls can be mean and they can cut deep as they don’t use physical violence – they use words (Did you see Cat’s Eye?)
As she slowly spirals out of control, she makes some really bad decisions which take her to the point of no return.

What she did stupidly wrong

1. Take half naked pictures of herself
I mean, if you were asked by a club you didn’t really want to join to take half-naked pictures and post them online for others to see and like, would you do it? Nope, no way in Hell, no-no. You shouldn’t even send nudies to your boyfriend as anything that gets posted online will be seen by more than the intended eyes.
And do you really want to have some unknown perv masturbating over the picture you took?

Always take pictures with the idea that your grandma or grandpa will be seeing them.

2. Be bullied into a corner

Bullying is a massive issue in most school and it gets attention whenever it gets brought up. There is nothing cool about some hormonal teenagers ganging up on another teenager because of sex, orientation, race, preferences in music, etc. Insecurities should be handled differently but most teens do not have an outlet or coping mechanisms. Have you seen 13 Reasons Why?

3. Stay silent when a friend is cheated on

Amelia starts with one small secret and keeps on piling them up until they become a massive pile. Sylvia’s boyfriend is one of them. He cheated but still she chooses to spare her friend’s feelings and stays quiet. She should also not have gotten undressed in front of him. Some things are off-limits.

4. She listened to the bullies

If some unknown numbers are sending you messages like “I hate you” and “I wish you should die” or “Slut”, “Dyke” and other names, the first thing to do is a.) block the number, b.) Get a new number which you don’t disclose to anyone but family c.) Involve the school
In no way should messages keep you up at night as they come in one after another. There is a lot of hate around and you should let it pass over you like water on a bedrock. Putting it all to heart can only diminish your view of yourself and the moment you start believing them, you are half doing their work..


RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA was inspired by McCreight’s own fears as a mother of two girls. “How on earth—in a world so filled with dangers, big and small—will I ever keep them safe?” she wondered. “Perhaps I worry because I’m especially fatalistic. But I don’t think so. I think I worry because, deep down, I know the truth: that there is only so much I can do to protect my girls. That’s what I thought a couple of years back when I read about the star student and athlete who committed suicide by jumping out a window at Dalton. It’s what I thought when I heard about Tyler Clementi’s tragic leap from the George Washington Bridge after he was surreptitiously videotaped with another man. And it was brought back to me again last spring when a New Jersey teenager named Lennon Baldwin hung himself allegedly in response to cyber-bullying.”

Bullying makes headlines whenever another tortured teen takes his or her life. This appalling pandemic—Huffington Post recently reported that as many as 53% of teens are targets of cyber-bullying—is at the troubled heart of Kimberly McCreight’s stunning debut novel, RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA.

Five out of five stars.

Other great reviews:
Reconstructing Amelia Book Review

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