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Sunday, June 1, 2014

...but a little too old for this book.

As I promised on my Goodreads review, here are all of my thoughts about Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight:

First off, full disclosure: I listened to the audiobook version of this novel, which I recognize can skew the "reader's" perspective of a book by giving the narrator a voice.  In addition, Ms. McCreight decided to present part of the story through a series of text messages, Facebook, and blog entries.  I'm sure they come across a lot different on paper.

My first thought is that I, at the ripe old age of 29, am WAY too old to be reading this book.  Khristine Hvam's voice throughout this novel was juvenile to a fault.  This book was not advertised as young adult fiction, so why was it read like it was?

Okay, rewind: if you don't know, this book is about a teenage girl who jumps off of the roof of her school right after being accused of plagiarism.  A few weeks down the road, her mother, who is a single mom and junior partner at a big law firm, receives an anonymous text telling her that her daughter didn't jump.  This sets her off on a path to "reconstruct" Amelia.

That being said, I understand why this book was read in an adolescent voice.  The problem I have is: how are we getting all of this from Amelia's point of view if she's dead?  Sure, she could have recorded her thoughts in several mediums much how I am right this moment, but there's dialogue, which rules that out.   Listening to this book, I kept asking myself whether Ms. McCreight ever went to high school herself, and if she did, where???  Sure, I might be 12 years removed from from high school, but we didn't talk or act this way twelve years ago.  No, we didn't have Facebook or text messaging to "bully" each other with, but we sure were never that mean to our fellow students.  We also didn't feel the need to use profanity in every sentence or have sex with every significant other.  I guess that's how they raise them up in NYC nowadays.

I get that bullying is a hot-button issue right now, but this book eerily mirrors the real-life story of Rebecca Ann Sedwick, the young girl who jumped to her death this past September right here in Polk County.  I'm assuming that the story made national news (I'm not sure because I don't watch national news networks) because Sheriff Judd arrested the two girls that tormented her.  I kept finding myself rolling my eyes every time I found a clear correlation between the real-life girl and Amelia.

Homosexuality also becomes an issue in the novel.  To those of you who know me in real life, you know where I stand on the issue and why I don't want it to be an "issue" in a work of fiction.  You want to have a gay character in a book?  Fine.  Just don't make their sexual preferences a big deal, and that's exactly what Ms. McCreighton has done in this novel.  It's my understanding that this is her first novel, so maybe she felt the need to make her personal thoughts known from the outset, I don't know.  I just hope that she realizes that people read books to be entertained, not annoyed.

Despite all of my criticism, I don't think Ms. McCreight is a terrible writer (as some have suggested).  I rather enjoyed her writing, just not how this story was presented, despite it being a great idea for a novel.  I'll give her next book a shot--just don't go all Gossip Girl on us next time, okay?

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