Review: Reconstructing Amelia

Title: Reconstructing Amelia Image

Author: Kimberly McCreight

Rating: ★★★★1/2

Provided Synopsis: Litigation lawyer and harried single mother Kate Baron is stunned when her daughter’s exclusive private school in Park Slope, Brooklyn, calls with disturbing news: her intelligent, high-achieving fifteen-year-old daughter, Amelia, has been caught cheating.

Kate can’t believe that Amelia, an ambitious, levelheaded girl who’s never been in trouble would do something like that. But by the time she arrives at Grace Hall, Kate’s faced with far more devastating news. Amelia is dead. 

Seemingly unable to cope with what she’d done, a despondent Amelia has jumped from the school’s roof in an act of “spontaneous” suicide. At least that’s the story Grace Hall and the police tell Kate. And overwhelmed as she is by her own guilt and shattered by grief, it is the story that Kate believes until she gets the anonymous text: 

She didn’t jump.

Sifting through Amelia’s emails, text messages, social media postings, and cell phone logs, Kate is determined to learn the heartbreaking truth about why Amelia was on Grace Hall’s roof that day-and why she died.

Told in alternating voices, Reconstructing Amelia is a story of secrets and lies, of love and betrayal, of trusted friends and vicious bullies. It’s about how well a parent ever really knows a child and how far one mother will go to vindicate the memory of a daughter whose life she could not save.

Review: I was absorbed in this book from the very beginning. As the provided synopsis says, Kate is a junior partner at a corporate law firm and a single mother to her daughter, Amelia. One day she receives a call from her daughter’s prep school telling her that her daughter has been caught cheating, is suspended from school, and needs to be picked-up as soon as possible. However, things escalate quickly, for Amelia is dead when Kate shows up at the school. The police have ruled it a suicide.

As Kate struggles to contain her grief she one day receives an anonymous text that refutes the police’s finding. Amelia did not jump from the roof to her death. Thus her mother reopens the case and takes a dive into her daughter’s life to discover what happened to her. What she finds is a long line of secrets; Amelia had been involved in things that her mother had been completely unaware of.

This book showed how cruel girls can be to others, especially when they feel as if they have been threatened, betrayed, or slighted. Bullying is such a problem in today’s society and its devastating consequences are shown through the narrative voice of Amelia. At one point she realizes that no matter what she does her tormentors will never stop. This was incredibly poignant.

Kate’s narrative voice also shows the affect of bullying from the perspective of a parent. She was unaware of what had been happening and I empathized with her as she encountered the truths of her daughter’s life. Her encounters with Amelia’s classmates, their parents, and employees at the school showed how people in a position to stop bullying often turn the other cheek. Aren’t the enablers just as guilty as the tormentors? And it must be noted that the young bullies often are children of adults who act the same way. This was not a happy story, nor are many of the characters likable, but it addresses a tragic issue and is therefore worth the read.


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