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Monday, July 16, 2012

Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield

Release Date: July 5, 2012
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Pages: 277
Buy: Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound
Description: Goodreads
An arresting un-coming-of-age story, from a breathtaking talent.

Becca has always longed to break free from her small, backwater hometown. But the discovery of an unidentified dead girl on the side of a dirt road sends the town--and Becca--into a tailspin. Unable to make sense of the violence of the outside world creeping into her backyard, Becca finds herself retreating inward, paralyzed from moving forward for the first time in her life.

Short chapters detailing the last days of Amelia Anne Richardson's life are intercut with Becca's own summer as the parallel stories of two young women struggling with self-identity and relationships on the edge twist the reader closer and closer to the truth about Amelia's death.

A sinister novel full of speculation, Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone had me hanging on till the end. A story about the lives of two girls -- one living, one dead -- it sheds light on the innermost social workings of a small town riddled with secrets and living under the cloud of a tragedy that doesn't belong to it.

The two girls' stories converge on the dusty stretch of road outside Rebecca's sleepy New England town where Amelia's life came to an untimely end. The gruesome nature of Amelia's death and the gossip and suspicion surrounding the investigation remind Rebecca that violence can invade any place at any time and make her think twice about leaving home.

A recent high school graduate, Rebecca has never really felt like she fit in Bridgeton and is anxious to begin a life anywhere else. The only thing standing between her and the future is the summer. A summer of change, doubt, and heartache that she never expected. The summer when the body of a young girl  -- Amelia Anne Richardson -- just setting out into the world was found in a twisted, bloody heap on the side of an old country highway.

What made this novel particularly riveting is that it's told in first person omniscient, a rare treat in fiction when done well. Saying the narration is truly omniscient though may be a stretch. Beautifully written and told with an authoritative voice, you're left to question what's fact and what's fiction as Rebecca recounts the events of that summer through the eyes of an entire town.

Periodically throughout the story, Rebecca stops to speculate on what might have happened. The constant asides within the story will likely annoy a reader expecting a completely reliable narrator and a straightforward account of what happened that summer, but I have to say it worked incredibly well for me. I'm not normally a mystery reader and the speculation and situational pondering helped to amp up my suspicion and lend a more ominous tone to the book.

I also really liked the fact that the people and relationships in the book are genuine and real. Rebecca's boss Tom has a way of talking to her that rings true of long-time bosses in small communities who adopt their employees as a surrogate family. The local cops aren't portrayed as country yokels but well-intended guys in over their heads. Even the people who left town once upon a time in hopes of striking out to find a better life and returned to the comfort of home felt three-dimensional, despite being nameless and only mentioned in passing. 

The couples -- Rebecca & James and Amelia & Luke -- become increasingly more human and their stories more gripping as the book intensifies. They act like a couple who've come to a crossroads in their lives and thusly their relationship. There's no sugar-coating or false sense of sentimentality. In more ways than one, their stories, full of hope and sadness, run parallel to each other.

I have only one complaint and one regret with Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone and the two go hand in hand.

Sometimes the asides within the narration threw me off track. While the language was beautiful and I was easily ensnared by the gorgeous writing, I often emerged from a scene or chapter unsure where I was in the book's timeline. And that leads to my regret.

I regret taking a reading break at the halfway point. Sometimes it has to be done, but I didn't have to this time. I was enthralled by the writing, invested in the story and anxious to get to the end. So why did I put it down? Maybe the combination of near-mind blowing writing and graphic imagery, such as "eyes like peeled grapes" to described the dead eyes of Amelia Anne, was just too intense. I can't really explain it, but I can't help but think that if I'd read straight through that maybe, just maybe, I wouldn't have lost the timeline and then I'd have no complaints with this outstanding novel.

Let's just say, Kat Rosenfield and her amazing debut novel have ruined me for whatever book I read next.


  1. Great review; I'm glad that it was good but I'm not sure how I'm going to like the narration....

    ~Kailia @ Reading the Best

  2. Well, you've convinced me. With the premise and the fact that it's in first person plural omni it reminds me of A ROSE FOR EMILY by William Faulker. Truly demented and one of my favorite shorts. I'll take it.