On The Cover: Litigation lawyer and harried single mother Kate Baron is shocked when her daughter’s exclusive Brooklyn private school calls to tell her that Amelia—her intelligent, high-achieving fifteen-year-old—has been caught cheating. But when Kate arrives at Grace Hall, she’s blindsided by far more devastating news: Amelia is dead. Despondent, she’s jumped from the school’s roof. At least that’s what Grace Hall and the police tell Kate. It’s what she believes, too, until she gets the anonymous text: Amelia didn’t jump. Now, Kate is going to find the truth—no matter where it leads. Sifting through Amelia’s e-mails, text messages, and Facebook posts, Kate reconstructs the pieces of her daughter’s life and the people in it, uncovering why she was on Grace Hall’s roof that day—and how she died.
A superb blend of Tana French and Jodi Picoult, Reconstructing Amelia is a story of secrets and lies, friends and bullies. It’s about how well any parent really knows their child and how far one mother will go to vindicate the memory of a daughter whose life she could not save.
Published: January 2013
Why I Chose It: I saw this book at a book sale and was intrigued by the idea of a mother going through social media to learn more about her daughter.
This book contains a lot of different forms of storytelling: both Amelia and Kate’s perspectives, as well as texts, newsletters, emails, and hand-written journals that really allow a broader scope on Amelia’s world. McCreight does a good job of balancing these different mediums, and using them in combination to tell a larger story. I found the multiple formats kept me interested in the story and always pushed me to read a little bit more, to find out what that email says, or what those texts say. I did enjoy that these mediums would sometimes overlap with story details and I was able to piece together the story myself. While the story would tell me later how these were significant, I liked that I had an opportunity to analyze and puzzle things out for myself first.
What bothers me most about this story is that I didn’t like any of the characters. Any of them. It’s hard to really immerse yourself in a story when you just don’t enjoy the people you’re reading about. While to some extent Kate can be forgiven as her only daughter has just died, it’s hard to come to terms with the other characters. Amelia comes across as naive and weak, and her friendship with Sylvia is downright awful. Secondary characters seemed one-dimensional at best. While I did like some of the ideas and use of mediums to reveal more about the people within the story, I really did have a hard time liking the characters.
In terms of mystery writing, I was a pretty middle-ground on this one. While I appreciate that McCreight was trying to create a complex mystery with her story, it sometimes felt like she simply had too many layers happening at one time. I feel that if she lost a couple layers, the details could have been better fleshed out. In the end, the story seemed a little too surfacy and didn’t dig as deep into the characters as I would have liked. I have to say, though, I did get caught up in the mystery of the story and with the desire to know what happened to Amelia. I was really happy that all the way to the end of the book I genuinely could not guess what happened. Grab this one up if you’re looking for a quick read or a light summer mystery!
Overall Rating: 3 / 5
Integration of texts/emails etc: 5 / 5
Mystery / Suspense: 5 / 5
Depth of Characters: 2 / 5
Character Development: 1 / 5
“So if getting with Ian was serious news, why was I so annoyed? Oh my God, was I jealous? Not jealous that Sylvia had kissed Ian Greene, though. It was more like I was jealous that she had wanted to kiss him and she had. I couldn’t imagine feeling that way about someone, much less acting normal enough to pull it off.” p 31
“Every night she actually managed to fall asleep, Kate would dream she was falling – from the roof of Grace Hall, her office window, the top of the stairs – jolting awake just before she smacked into pavement. And every morning when she awoke she’d be compelled to the top floor of her brownstone, where she’d open a window and lean out, hands pressed against the frame, staring down. Not that forcing herself to see what Amelia had in those last seconds of her life would ever be punishment enough. Nothing would ever be punishment enough.” p 42
“It was even worse being in Amelia’s room than Kate had imagined. Sitting there, she missed her daughter so much it made everything ache – her legs, her hands, her eyelids. Her flesh felt covered in bruises as her eyes moved over the crammed bookcases lining almost every wall in Amelia’s room.” p 75