Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

Reconstructing Amelia
by Kimberly McCreight
Read by Khristine Hvam
12 hours, 15 minutes
Published April 2013 by Harper

Publisher's Summary: 
Kate's in the middle of the biggest meeting of her career when she gets the telephone call from Grace Hall, her daughter’s exclusive private school in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Amelia has been suspended, effective immediately, and Kate must come get her daughter—now. But Kate’s stress over leaving work quickly turns to panic when she arrives at the school and finds it surrounded by police officers, fire trucks, and an ambulance. By then it’s already too late for Amelia. And for Kate. 

An academic overachiever despondent over getting caught cheating has jumped to her death. At least that’s the story Grace Hall tells Kate. And clouded as she is by her guilt and grief, it is the one she forces herself to believe. Until she gets an anonymous text: She didn’t jump. 

Reconstructing Amelia is about secret first loves, old friendships, and an all-girls club steeped in tradition. But, most of all, it’s the story of how far a mother will go to vindicate the memory of a daughter whose life she couldn’t save.

My Thoughts: 
It's late, I'm tired, and I want to make sure I get a review posted this week so let's get straight to it: 
  • Readers will have to keep suspending disbelief as a police detective allows Kate to go along to, and even participate in, interviews. Pretty sure that would never happen in real life. 
  • Grace Hall comes across like the school in 1999's Cruel Intentions, where the staff is ruled by the parents and seems willing to be oblivious to what the kids are doing. Or unwilling to take a stand. Or too busy with their own interest or wanting to be friends. 
  • This book strangely brought to mind The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood for me in the way the story reveals itself. Like Siddalee trying to learn about her mother through other people and a scrapbook in Sisterhood, Kate is trying to understand her daughter through social media posts, emails, texts, and in asking questions of others. Like Sisterhood, here readers learn far more about Amelia than Kate does, as we are privy to Amelia's own voice, a version of what happened beyond what was available to Kate. 
  • There's a character who gets a lot of print space without, in my opinion, of course, really contributing to the story, even though told Amelia that he was Amelia's father. Just so she could pretend Amelia's dad wasn't a jerk? Except...well, that's a something you'll just have to read the book to find out. 
  • I was fairly well convinced that Amelia didn't jump, but McCreight does a terrific job of making readers doubt that assumption. Her heart's been broken, she's being humiliated, she's just been accused of cheating by a teacher she revers, she's struggling with not knowing who her father is, and  she's 15. I think we can all imagine what all of that would have done to us at that age. 
  • McCreight covers a lot of themes here: suicide, sexuality, sexual orientation, homophobia, bullying, mother/daughter relationships, friendship, first love, secrets, and communication. 
  • There are a lot of old tropes at play in this book: adults are useless, the good girl versus the bad girl, beware the nice characters, gay best friend. There's also a lot of foreshadowing, which I realized in retrospect. Made me wonder if I had been reading this one, instead of listening to it, if I would have caught on sooner to some of the secrets that were later revealed. 
  • And by "sooner," you know I mean "at all" because, of course, I was completely taken by surprise again and again as the book came to its conclusions. And you probably also know that having that happen helped me forgive a lot of the other things that had troubled me about this one. 
  • Even when it was all said and done, I still can't imagine how a mother moves on after losing her only child, especially with as much guilt as Kate carried. 


  1. Interesting review. I'm glad I found your blog.

  2. Amazing that a story can put the reader on a roller coaster ride of emotions. Quite interesting.

  3. A very intense novel with heavy feelings involved. Excellent review.