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Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Reconstructing Amelia: It's That Disturbing and That Compelling

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When Kate Baron, a 38-year-old lawyer working for a prestigious firm in Manhattan, receives a call from her daughter's high school, she's stunned.  Amelia's always been a model student.  She can't possibly be guilty of plagiarizing; the administration's obviously made a huge mistake.  When Kate reaches the school, she gets an even worse shock—Amelia's not waiting in the headmaster's office because her dead body is sprawled on the ground outside the school.  The police are quick to rule the 15-year-old's death a suicide.

Kate can't believe her only child is dead, can't fathom why someone as beautiful and smart as Amelia would take her own life.  It just doesn't add up.  Then, Kate gets an ominous text:  She didn't jump.  It's obviously some monster's idea of a sick joke, but what if it's not?  What if someone pushed Amelia?  As horrible as the idea is, it makes more sense than a girl like Amelia killing herself.  Kate can't imagine who would want to hurt Amelia, but she's determined to find her daughter's murderer.  She doesn't care if voicing her concerns makes her sound like a desperate, grief-crazy psycho—she will find out what really happen to Amelia.       

As Kate searches through her daughter's texts, emails and Facebook statuses, she begins to wonder if she knew her daughter at all.  Did Amelia's involvement with a secret campus club twist her into a lying, cheating bad girl?  Or was she the victim of extreme hazing?  Was her death caused by someone she knew or was it a random crime?  The closer Kate gets to the truth, the more disturbing the answers become.  Can she handle knowing what really happened, especially if it shows how largely she failed as a mother?  Kate's no longer sure ...

I've said many times that I love a nice, twisty psychological thriller and Reconstructing Amelia certainly qualifies.  The debut novel by Kimberly McCreight offers a murder (or not?) mystery that takes plenty of surprising, sinister turns.  Although it does get cliché in spots, the plot's tight construction as well as its alternating viewpoints keeps the story tense and edge-of-your-seat interesting.  It's well-crafted, for sure.  Not that there weren't times when it felt a little far-fetched or when Amelia acted a lot older than 15, but overall, the plotting's tight.  That being said, Reconstructing Amelia is a dark, disturbing novel that's deeply unsettling.  Let's just say, it's R-rated for a reason.  There were lots of times throughout the novel when I thought, "Why in the world am I still reading this?"  So yeah, beware.  The story made me that uncomfortable, but it was also that compelling.  Once I started reading, I couldn't stop. 

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult)  

Grade:  B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  R for strong language, sexual content (including homosexual encounters), and depictions of underage drinking/drug usage 

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of Reconstructing Amelia from the generous folks at Harper Collins via those at TLC Book Tours.  Thank you!



  1. My husband thought this was really good but I didn't care for the language or sex so didn't like Amelia at all and quit on it just a few pages in. Here's a link to Gerard's review:

    I also added a link to your review here on ours.

    1. I know exactly how you feel! The book is well-constructed and very suspenseful, but it is full of language, sex and other disquieting things. That's why I kept TRYING to put it down. I really wish there were more well-written, tightly-plotted thrillers/mysteries out there without all the filth. Surely, there are some good ones that are only PG-13. Have you and Gerard found any like that??

      At any rate, thanks for posting a link to my review. I appreciate it!

  2. Thank you for the warning! It does sound compelling, but definitely not my kind of book.

    1. That's why I give books ratings -- so readers know what they're getting themselves into!

  3. Uncomfortable yet compelling? I have to admit I'm intrigued by the story from reading your review. I think this is one I shall put on the to-read list.

    1. LOL. Uncomfortable for me might not be the same as for others. I'm probably a bit more sensitive than the average reader. If you read the book, be sure and let me know what you thought!

  4. Sounds intriguing! I can handle some dark stuff but is this the kind of dark that stays with you as a mom?

    1. Basically, the book's central question is: How well does a parent ever really know their child? So, yes, it's disturbing in that way. Mostly, I just got fed up with all the crudeness - not just sex and language, but it also talks about teen girls posting provocative images of themselves on the Internet, extreme bullying, girls filming other girls in compromising situations, drinking/partying, etc. The story's definitely intriguing, I just found all those elements together to be really disturbing (esp. since my son starts high school in a few months - Ack!).

  5. Intriguing review. I haven't seen this book here in the UK, but I might give it a try - though thanks for the content warnings. It's always good to be aware of what you might encounter in a book and decide whether or not it's for you.

  6. "The story made me that uncomfortable, but it was also that compelling." Ooh, this sounds deliciously creepy!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  7. This review reminds me of the book SISTER: A NOVEL by Rosamund Lupton that I read last year. A sister tries to find out how/why her sister died and uncovers truths and secrets that make her realize she never really knew her sister and also put her in danger. Have you read it? I loved it.


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