Entertainment Weekly said “Like Gone Girl, Reconstructing Amelia should be hailed as one of the best books of the year.” Wow. That’s some blurb. And Reconstructing Amelia has a great – albeit stomach churning – setup. The phone rings, and single-mom-slash-lawyer Kate Baron learns that her teenage daughter is in trouble at school. Things go wrong, it takes her longer than expected to get there, and by the time the subway delivers her to Grace Hall, her daughter is dead. They say she jumped from the roof.
And that’s how far I read the first time I started Reconstructing Amelia. I just wasn’t up for it. But since it’s received its Edgar nom, trying again was definitely in order.
While Kate initially accepts the verdict of suicide, but an anonymous text – Amelia didn’t jump – makes her think twice. Sure enough, too many things don’t add up. Who is Ben? A new friend? Love interest? But Amelia’s best friend says no. And why is Amelia getting involved with a secret club? What’s the big attraction, and why were other club members harassing her?
Author Kimberley McCreight knows teens, and she tells Amelia’s story through Facebook, blog posts, emails, text messages, as well as carefully revealed first person accounts from Amelia herself and a limited third person POV from Kate’s perspective. It sounds busy and confusing, but she makes it work. The mix allows McCreight to keep suspense high and build to twisty reveal.
And that’s the rub. The reveal is just a little too twisty, defying believability. But what about the Gone Girl reference? Was not Gone Girl also contrived? Yep. (Click here for last year’s review of the book.) But with Gillian Flynn’s popular novel, the twists were based in Nick and Amy’s actual characters, and the unreliability of Amy’s narrative was deliberate deception on her part.
In Reconstructing Amelia, everybody is keeping secrets. Many of these are rooted in misunderstandings and miscommunications, and with some straight talk anywhere along the way, the whole plot would fall apart. I won’t be surprised if Reconstructing Amelia wins the Edgar, because McCreight is innovative in her approach, the story is compelling and very “of the moment.”
So where goes it in the ranking? Definitely above The Resurrectionist, but not at the top of the list. Jason Matthew’s complex spy thriller is still #1 for me.
- Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews
- Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
- The Resurrectionist by Matthew Guinn