Updated: Oct 20, 2022
Kimberly McCreight is one of the most dynamic authors I know. She slips between the young adult genre into adult fiction easily. From murder to mystery to romance, McCrieght covers it all. Her books have captured my heart more than any other author. It is no wonder a multitude of her stories will be adapted into movies and series within the next few years.
‘Reconstructing Amelia’ is my most treasured adult novel of McCreight. Set in New York City, the book is never dull. It follows a single mother, Kate, who works at a primarily male law firm. Her 15-year-old daughter is the apple of her eye, but they rarely see each other because of her demanding work schedule. Amelia doesn’t know her dad, but asks questions about him everyday. She craves to know him, but her mother is discrete, and leaves no trace of him.
Now let’s meet Amelia. She is slightly nerdy, achieving high grades in various disciplines, but she isn’t a complete brainiac. Amelia also competitively plays field hockey on her school team. Well known at school and a favourite of the teachers, Amelia is likeable to all. But she doesn’t have that ‘suck up’ personality that one may assume. Amelia is a character that I admired, and would honestly get along with if she was a real person.
Amelia’s best friend, Syvlia, is quiet the opposite. She is a fun character to read about, and often made me laugh for no good reason. Sylvia is extremely superficial and obsessed with boys. Though the two are seemingly different, they get along just fine and occupy their time talking about Sylvia’s new weekly love interest, munching on muffins at the cafe.
Kate and Amelia live in Manhattan, in a small brownstone apartment. Just the two of them. I love their dynamic as they don’t follow the usual mother/daughter relationship. They are more like friends, spending their free time together gossiping, going out for sushi and watching movies. They rarely ever fight, unless Amelia brings up her father.
The story begins with a phone call to Kate. This seemingly innocuous phone call whips her right off her feet, as she is told: ‘Amelia is Dead.’ I loved the start of this book – it immediately began. The pages captured me right from the get-go, which you don’t see often in many novels. Questions about how she died and why she died erupted from the first few pages.
But how could her perfect, vibrant and happy daughter be dead? And the most surprising thing is that Amelia had apparently jumped off of the school roof. The novel splits between Rachel’s narrative in the present time and Amelia’s narrative in the past time. As the book progresses, we soon realize that Amelia wasn’t so perfect and angelic after all.
After immersing herself in the wrong crowd, desperate to find belonging, she does things that no 15-year-old should ever do. The story continues to unfold, revealing dark secrets that Amelia possessed behind her wide smile. After being invited into a school club called the ‘Magpies’, her world is opened, but not for the better. These girls, all from different grades at the highschool, connect through their indifferences. A starving ballerina, an angsty goth, and a perfect, popular girl named Dylan, capture the attention of Amelia.
Becoming more and more reserved at home, spending more time with her newfound club members, Amelia loses sight of what is important in life. She loses her best friend Sylia, and experiments in her sexuality, hiding it from her mom. The Magpies aren’t good for her – and she knows it, but she is desperate to continue a relationship that never should have happened in the first place. Amelia is dependent on them. Their toxicity is tangible, but addicting.
Though the ending was not necessarily surprising, how the story unfolds between each page is simply remarkable. McCrieght has a way with words that no other author I have read has met. Some other books of hers to check out include The Outliers Trilogy and A Good Marriage.