“If you think you know what your teenagers are doing on social media, you’d better think again.” That’s what Kate Baron might have said in the end, long after her daughter Amelia’s shocking death and the investigation that followed. Kate’s discoveries of the cyber circles in which Amelia had become entangled reveal a world Kate could have never imagined, full of cliques, vicious gossip, exclusive clubs and secret initiations.
Reconstructing Amelia is Kimberly McCreight’s debut novel about the secret life of teenagers at Grace Hall, an elite private school in Brooklyn. Her story begins on the day of Amelia’s death and continues through the months that follow while Kate tries to understand what happened to the girl she thought she knew.
Kate already knows that something is wrong when she’s called out of an important meeting at work to retrieve her daughter. Amelia, a gifted high school student and talented athlete, has been suspended for cheating, effective immediately. As she rushes to the school to pick up her daughter, Kate braces herself for a meeting with Amelia and the headmaster. But there will be no meeting because Amelia, she is carefully told, has fallen off the roof of the building.
Amelia’s death is ruled an “impulsive suicide” and, just as Kate begins to face her new reality, she receives an anonymous text: “Amelia didn’t jump.”
Kate knows in her heart these words are true and, with the help of a police detective, she immerses herself in her daughter’s secret internet life. They pore over emails, Facebook posts, and text messages and try to piece together the events that led to Amelia’s death. In addition, a snarky gossip blog and a pile of hate notes hint at bullying and secret clubs. But who is responsible?
In some ways, Reconstructing Amelia is a coming-of age-story, for both mother and daughter. In the weeks before her death, Amelia faces many decisions about friendship, love and fitting into a world she is just beginning to understand. And in the months after her death, Kate must make peace with her own decisions and move forward.
McCreight builds a suspenseful story on an interesting premise and I enjoyed reading this fast-paced story because of its many twists and turns. Readers may become frustrated, however, with partially-developed leads and an overabundance of questionable character motives that muddle up the storyline without purpose. Equally frustrating are a good number of typos and grammar errors, taking away from the reading experience.
That said, I liked the book for its ideas and pace, making it a light, entertaining read.
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