Title: Reconstructing Amelia
Author: Kimberly McCreight
Release Date: April 2, 2013
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Kate Baron is a single mother working as a partner at a New York law firm, so as much as she loves her teenage daughter, Amelia, she doesn’t have as much time to spend with her as she would like. When Kate receives a phone call at work telling her that Amelia has been suspended from her elite private school, Kate is shocked—after all, Amelia has always been a great kid. But what Kate discovers when she arrives at the school is something else entirely: Amelia’s broken body, lifeless after a fall from the roof. The police are eager to rule the case a suicide, but Kate disagrees and begins digging into the school and Amelia’s life there to determine what could have happened.
Reconstructing Amelia is a gripping novel that focuses on the difficult issue of bullying among teens. But this isn’t just any bullying; Amelia attends a prestigious private school, full of wealthy students. The school turns a blind eye to the secret societies that have formed on campus, all of which have serious hazing rituals. The reader learns about Amelia’s horrifying and difficult experiences through flashbacks, which are incredibly well done. McCreight manages to keep the suspense flowing in both the present and the past as Kate’s investigations turn up one disturbing thing after another.
Readers will sympathize with Kate from the very beginning of Reconstructing Amelia. Yes, she is very busy, but she’s done a great job raising Amelia singlehandedly. Over and over again, in the flashbacks, Kate makes clear that her daughter is her first priority. Kate’s determination to find the true cause of Amelia’s death is admirable, but it’s heartbreaking that the only thing Kate will find at the end is some sort of closure. Amelia is gone, and nothing can bring her back.
Teenage life these days, especially in big cities in schools with wealth, is not innocent, and Reconstructing Amelia makes that clear from beginning to end. At her core, Amelia is a good kid; no one reading will doubt that for a second. But she’s presented with such difficult choices, and all she really wants deep down is to belong. Readers will feel Amelia’s pain on the pages, and even as she’s making bad decisions, it’s easy to see why. Her experiences are eye opening, and readers will certainly appreciate the many difficult issues that McCreight tackles in this novel.
If you’re the parent of a teenage girl, Reconstructing Amelia is one of those novels that will shake you to your core. Even if you aren’t, it presents a scary world for teenage girls; readers will marvel at how horrible they can be to one another. But Amelia is a light in this dark tunnel, and even though it can’t end happily for her, readers will root for Kate to find the truth and expose the lies and hypocrisy behind Amelia’s death.