Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Reconstructing Amelia

I could hear the sound of a steady rainfall when I woke up the other morning. As I contemplated getting up, I found myself thinking about my personal state of affairs over the past few months. There was a time, not too long ago, when I would have given almost anything to be able to lay in bed - when the pain from my back injury left me with one bearable position: vertical. The stress that I would encounter at the end of the evening when other people started to prepare for bed was almost too much - I knew what awaited me over the next six or seven hours. After going weeks without getting sleep of any kind, I found one particular position that would afford me a couple of hours of much-needed sleep - that was until the effects of the pain medication wore off, and I needed to get up, remedicate, and start walking again. If only I had been aware of Nan's Rent-a-Sister offer at that point! She sounds like the definition of an angel and would have been so appreciated. Through the grace of God, though, I somehow made it through to the other side of that very dark period. Luckily, these days, it's looking like early dawn.

But back to last Friday. Just because it was raining, and because I had nowhere that I needed to be, and I had a new book right beside me, and just because I could, I picked up that book and started to read. What a delicious feeling! It felt like a rainy day at the cottage during Summer Break. The book was this book:

It's a good thing that it was an all-day rain, because other than the odd break here and there, I stayed in bed and read all day long. Finished the book in one sitting. Touted as Gossip Girl meets Gone Girl, you may remember that Reconstructing Amelia was one of the Summer Reads that I was looking forward to enjoying this year. I was not disappointed.  It is a suspenseful  who-done-it with a heavy dose of  priveledged teenagers, secrets, lies, love, and cyberbullying.

Kate Baron, a New York litigation attorney and single mother, is left to reconstruct the life of her daughter Amelia, after the over-achiever's apparent suicide. The tale is told through alternating point of view (Kate's and Amelia's) and through the use of mixed media - facebook status updates, text messages, emails, blog posts, and first and third-person narratives. Bit by bit, by sifting through the digital footprint left by Amelia, Kate learns the true life that was lived by the daughter with whom she believed she was very close. McCreight is adept at this format. The story flows very naturally and the reader is enticed by the short sections to keep reading "just one more entry."

Having been a teenaged girl myself at one time, and having been around them practically my whole life, the teenagers in Reconstructing Amelia are believable to me. Fortunately, in my real life I have never encountered mean girls to the same extreme as in this book, but I do not doubt that they exist. Amelia's portrayal of a conscientous student who wants to do the right thing should ring true with the reader. Even good kids have stuff to deal with and this reconstruction is really a coming of age story for Amelia. Kate, herself, is a likeable and indentifiable character. As a mother I could relate to her wanting to know the truth, but being afraid of what she might discover.

 It is probably in my relation to Kate that I got thinking more about the cyberbullying issue. I found myself going "Phew! Thank God I'm not just starting out on my parenting career." I would be a sleep-deprived basket-case as a parent of young teens today. I think back on how much anxiety I experienced trying to limit exposure to negative influences and in creating a safe and positive environment for Daughter1, Daughter2, and OnlySon. While at the same time, not turning them into paranoid creatures afraid to venture out in the world. Although I often felt like " a voice crying out in the wilderness," it was a balancing act that I believe Mr. Fun and me did a decent job of - I have the sleep issues to testify to it. And this was before our full-blown digital age. Today's parents require more diligence than at any time in history. For most, gone are the days when the one family computer was situated in an open and heavily-supervised room of the house. When children asked to be logged in to the dial-up network. Our children are assualted 24/7 by outside forces - many of these are beneficial connections that certainly enhance their experiences and education. However, many more are not. I listened to an NPR segment awhile back regarding the parental role with technology. One speaker spoke about the change she has noticed in keeping in touch with her children's moods and behaviour. There was a time when a child came home and a parent could see that he or she was in a good/bad/excited/contemplative mood. Unless the phone rang, the parent would be privy to any event that occured that would change that mood. Now, with a constant connection to the outside world in their pocket, something could change in that child's world at any second. You add the annonymity of technology, some teen drama, and the normal lack of communication that many teens exhibit during these years, and a parent can be pretty clueless to what is going on in their child's world.

Don't worry. Reconstructing Amelia really isn't that deep of a novel. That's just the way my brain works. In a nutshell, it is a fast-paced, suspenseful, coming of age (in a digital world) story that features real and believable characters. The clues to what really happened are revealed gradually and lead to an ending that, although a little underwhelming, I still did not see coming. The one issue I found fault with was the way the investigating detective brought Kate along with him to interview all the persons of interest. For a lawyer herself, I would think that McCreight would have thought this unlikely, if not implausible. However, it does move the plot along and is quite handily overlooked. I can easily see Reconstructing Amelia being adapted to film.

So, what's next on my reading list?

I am just about finished Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell (St. Martin's Griffin, 2013) and am really enjoying this quirky YA read so far. More to come .... And guess what? It's raining again today.

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