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Reconstructing Amelia

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In Reconstructing Amelia, the stunning debut novel from Kimberly McCreight, 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.

Fans of Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl will find Reconstructing Amelia just as gripping and surprising.

382 pages, Hardcover

First published April 2, 2013

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About the author

Kimberly McCreight

15 books3,879 followers
Kimberly McCreight is the New York Times bestselling author of several literary thrillers including RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA and A GOOD MARRIAGE. She has been nominated for the Edgar, Anthony and Alex awards and her books have been translated into more than twenty languages. She attended Vassar College and graduated cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter and at kimberlymccreight.com

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Profile Image for Jenn (One of Many, We are Legion).
121 reviews98 followers
April 24, 2013
This book. This. Fucking. Book. You see all those other reviews talking about how it was unputdownable, and how they never believed something so cliche before this book? You know how you’re rolling your eyes right now at those comments? Stop it. They are all true. This book handily usurped Gone Girl as the best book I have read in the past year. Make no mistake, however, this book is absolutely heartwrenching in so many ways I cannot describe absent spoilers.

This book is many things, which makes it incredibly difficult to genre classify. It is a poignant story about a single mother and successful career woman (Kate) doing the best she can to raise daughter, but following Amelia’s death, she cannot escape her own regrets and guilt over what happened, feeling like had she been a better parent, she could have prevented it.

It is also a beautiful coming of age tale for 15 year old Amelia, as well as several of the tertiary teenage characters, and explores first love and heartbreak, and the bonds of friendship anbd loyalty, in a delicate and beautiful, yet highly realistic, way.

Perhaps most important, this is a book about secrets. Secrets abound in this book. Everyone has a secret, and by the end, you will know their secrets too. Portions of the book have a very Gossip Girl feel, and I mean that in the best way possible. The reader is provided juicy tidbits of gossip as the story unfolds, and these developments are made in such a way that you can’t help but want to hear more, because it gives true insight into the world Amelia lived in, and the person she was. The pacing was absolutely excellent.

The story vacillates between events unfolding in the present and events that occurred in the past. Each chapter is narrated by either Kate or Amelia, except those in an epistolary format, constructed through texts, and facebook and blog posts. I found this a brilliant formatting choice, as the story unfolded for the reader practically simultaneously as it did for Kate.

Oh god, the characters in this book. So real, so multi-faceted. So relatable. Even the more ”cliched” characters had dimensions and layers. I don’t have kids, but I truly felt for Kate. My heart broke for her. Perhaps it is because for a portion of my life I was raised every day by a single mom, working a full time job, who often had to leave me with babysitters until early evening. I can understand that a mother may feel guilty about that, even if many people, her children included, do not believe that she should. Likewise, I strongly identified with Amelia, who fully understood why her mom was so absentee.

This book really drilled home the point that the quality of the time they spent together mattered so much more than the quantity. The emotions in this book. Oh, they run the gamut - jealousy, betrayal, hatred, admiration, and love. There is so much love in this book. The love Kate and Amelia feel for each other oozes off the pages. I won’t say much more about the nuanced emotions and relationships present in the book, lest I spoil.

Also, it appears that high school girls are still bitches. I graduated before household internet was mainstream; before AOL’s seemingly self-replicating floppies provided millions of households with free coasters. High school tormenting was much more covert in those days, rumors spread through whispers and giggles in the hallway, and you just hoped that the rumors died before proliferating throughout the school. This book makes deft use of the ways in which the digital age have changed the rumor mill, and thus, changed the ways in which high schoolers can torment each other in perpetuity. Nothing dies on the internet. The digital footprint is always there. Makes it much harder to forget and move onto the next rumor.

Ultimately, I cannot recommend this book enough. I was only about 80 or 100 pages in last night when I curled up in bed with my Nook, as I do every night, planning to read a couple chapters as I fell asleep. Next thing I knew, I was 150 pages in, it was pretty late, but I could read “just one more chapter.” Then 200...then 300...by the time I finished, it was far later than I should ever be awake during the week, but I regret not one moment of it.

799 reviews134 followers
December 4, 2013
Here are my pervasive thoughts as I read this book:
1 - Gillian Flynn, you should be offended within every inch of your life.
2 - I can see how a puppet show could be entertaining, but not when all you see is the marionette pulling the strings and
3 - I am coining a new term - Offensive Apologetics - to encapsulate much - but by no means all - of what is wrong with this book.

To address 1 - Ms. Flynn penned a successful hit entitled Gone Girl which, while gimmicky and over the top, was engaging and well crafted. For reasons that I cannot begin to fathom, Reconstructing Amelia (or deconstructing, or at least, that is what I will be doing) has been compared with that book and I am personally horrified, considering how much work clearly went into Gone Girl, and, well.

2 and also 3 because they go very much hand in hand, to be touched upon as I outline the staggeringly and embarrassingly unlikely plot:

When I first opened this book, having not read the binding, but ordered it from the library because, stupid me, it was rated highly on GR (you people have GOT to stop letting me down), I thought, Oh I'm gonna like this. It opened with a dishy, catty blog post ala Gossip Girl (I could almost hear Kirsten Bell) that doled out all kinds of scoop on a bunch of rich, bored high schoolers - as a high school teacher, I am a shameless sucker for this stuff. Well, sadly, those intermittent blog posts were actually not only the best but in fact the only good writing in this whole novel. Told in alternating view points and media (text, mom, daughter, random emails), we are told (and this is a big issue that I will get to soon) that Amelia, a beautifulsmartpopularhonorsstudentwitheverythinggoingforher, has not only been accused of cheating (but Amelia would never! She is too this that the other)but, once her smartprettysuceessfulofcoursepartnerinalawfirmbutstilldevotedmom comes rushing to her side despite having been in a Very Important Meeting, Kate the mom discovers that her daughter not only surprised her mom by cheating, but also by then flinging herself off the roof and killing herself.
If this all sounds rather far fetched, don't worry! Kate thinks so, too, and she KNOWS her daughter, I mean, yes, she is always working and never home, but SHE MAKES TIME such as Friday night dinners out and Saturday brunch in and Sunday movies. We are, in fact, told over and over how swell Kate is and how amazing Amelia is, yet, funnily enough, the entire novel is then dedicated to MUCHOS drama that Amelia was in over her pretty smart popular head in, with Mom (who Amelia LOVES don't get me wrong) having no clue. The other interesting thing is that prettysmartpopular Amelia who is OBSESSED with reading the densest classics EVER speaks like a total moron and is a martyr to her unredeemingly obnoxious selfish best friend, who, while walking all over Amelia, inspires pretty much nothing but guilt from the smart pretty popular girl for not being ENOUGH of a friend.
Anyway. Over the top dedicated despite her job Kate is shocked by the suicide (and I guess that makes sense, since, well, getting caught for cheating can evoke all kinds of responses but flinging your fifteen year old self off a roof is a rather creative one - nice job, there, McCreight) and then all the more shocked when she receives a text that - get this - Amelia didn't jump! NO! But wait! that highly unlikely and ill conceived plot actually pales in comparison to the crazy twists the book then takes.
We go back in time through Amelia's simpering and moronic prose and we discover the following:
Her rude and obnoxious and self centered BFF (who has been scripted by someone who either never met a teenager or only met ones via sitcoms for the girl speaks only in, like, super annoying acronyms which is SO like WTF and never ONCE did I, like, LOL or feel like this was, like, SO IT but rather, um, offensive to teens everywhere) has fallen totally in love with Ian who, because the author decided to make British, does not say ONE SINGLE SENTENCE without 'bloody' 'mate' 'knickers' or some other means to prove to me that, yes, yes he really IS bloody British! However Ian proves to be a rather confusing and unnecessary and ultimately annoying character.
Amelia, despite being a nerd and, frankly, charmless, has been tapped by the Magpies, a vicious group of nasty girls who are apparently totally secret yet have their pics online, have huge raging parties, and several other holes in the story that are too numerous to mention. Despite Amelia being, in her nerdiness, way too cool or smart to want in on the nastiness, and despite having sworn to obnoxious BFF who would like, kill Amelia if she joined without her (or herself since, we later and at a convenient time, learn back door like that BFF has a nasty habit of cutting herself), yea so despite all that she decides she does want in, and, though we are told every annoying detail of every character and their thoughts in painstakingly detailed told not shown fashion, we actually are not at all privy to when it is, exactly, Amelia decides, you know, she's gay, and also decides to fall in love with the conveniently ambiguously named Dylan (so as to mask this from her mom's reconstructing - clever move, there)who has even less charm than the BFF and basically just moons around all day being dumb and is actually really mean to Amelia, but we just go with it, I guess, because Dylan is so awesome (???) and also beautiful (ah, ok).
Anyway, we learn that Amelia also has picked up a cyber stalker named Ben who, despite being rather creepy and weird, has also managed to make Amelia rather happy even though he strikes me as rather curt and strange.
We also learn that Kate has some big secret as to who Amelia's father is, and that Amelia is being harassed because of it.
You know what? There are like a million more folds in this story but I feel like I don't even have the heart to type them all out. Let's just say that the formula seems to be Gossip Girl plus every far fetched law feuled overly exaggerated soap opera plot possible, where grown ups act like children and children sometimes act like grown ups or like villains, and the story just becomes a mockery of itself the deeper it goes.
But my main gripe, really, was the writing. It got to the point where so much backstory was referenced that I kept checking to see if this was a sequel and I was just being fed information that really, I was supposed to already know. The characters were acting out the roles picked out for them - and not very well, I might add - and the nagging apologetic voice of the author was loud and distracting the. Entire. Time. Kate is this! But also this! But please don't think she's that, she's not, no, not ever. And on and on and on. It was as if the characters couldn't be trusted to just BE.
Gillian Flynn, teenagers, Brits, and (I forgot!) IT guys (who are always high, apparently, and speak exclusively in surfing lingo) - be offended. And writers, and readers, and puppet masters who manage - somehow - to let the puppets tell the story and for the strings to remain - as they should be - invisible.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,921 reviews290k followers
April 22, 2015
“The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages.”
- Virginia Woolf

This book made me cry. And I really wasn't expecting that.

I think the comparisons between Reconstructing Amelia and Gone Girl have done this book a disservice. I know that every mystery/thriller with some unconventional female antics is now compared to Gone Girl - inevitable, really, in a world so focused on the marketing and selling aspect.

But Gone Girl (and the books that deserve to be grouped with it) left me shocked and intrigued at the dark psychological exploration of what people are capable of. I finish them thinking they are clever, twisted and totally disturbing. They do not make me cry. They do not break my heart like this book did.

I can see why the marketing department at HarperCollins read Reconstructing Amelia and saw an opportunity to market it as the dark, twisty thriller of the Gone Girl variety. It is about the secrets we all keep and hide from those closest to us. It's about discovering that the people we love most aren't all we believed them to be. And it looks closely at some of the most evil, depressed and fucked up creatures in the world: teenage girls.

BUT. There is one reason this book is so good and it's not some huge, mind-boggling, never-saw-that-coming twist... it's the relationship between Kate and Amelia. Kate is a lawyer from a "serious" family that never showed her any affection. After discovering her ability to fall for and/or sleep with all the wrong guys, she became pregnant with Amelia. Though her mother wanted her to have an abortion, Kate finally saw an opportunity to shower another human being with all the love and affection that lay unused inside her.

Despite having to work the long hours of a lawyer, Kate adored her daughter and dedicated every spare minute to her. She was open with her, encouraged Amelia to talk to her about anything, and loved her so unconditionally. And the reader knows that. I could feel Kate's love for Amelia. I mourned Amelia too because Kate did. How do you deal with the death of your child? How do you deal with the death of the person your entire life revolved around?

And, more than that, Kate cannot come to terms with Amelia's supposed suicide. It's hard enough that her daughter is dead, but she has to also accept that Amelia did it to herself. Because... Kate wasn't there enough? She didn't see the signs? She wasn't a good enough mother? So when an anonymous text informs Kate that Amelia didn't jump, she desperately grasps at this possibility.

Finding new information that reopens the case, Kate sparks an investigation deep into the world of private school teenage girls and all the dark horrors that lie inside their minds. Told in alternating perspectives - of Kate in the present and Amelia in the weeks leading up to her death - the mystery unravels to reveal ever more mysteries.

It shouldn't be grouped with Gone Girl, though, because it is not that kind of book. It's about a mother, a daughter, the love between them, and the mistakes we all make - teenagers and adults alike.

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Profile Image for pdbkwm.
346 reviews35 followers
September 10, 2016
I wanted to like this, but the writing is really bad. Really bad. Really, really, really bad. Plus, some of the plot points simply made no sense. There are certain things you can suspend your disbelief to and that’s fine and normal when it comes to any form of fiction, as long as it makes sense in their world the author created, but there is a limit. There’s no way a detective would bring the mother of a victim along with him to interview witnesses and get statements. It….. No, just no.

Unless, he wasn’t really a detective and was only hired to act like one so Kate could find the truth. If this was the case, then I’m fine with it. However, that doesn’t happen. He’s just a cop who is investigating the suspicious death of a girl and decides that it would be fun to let the dead girl’s mom take lead in the investigation.

Yea...that would never happen. Never.

Also, the adults sounded and acted like teenagers. Once you get to the end, you’ll understand what I mean. The whole thing was just ridiculous.

Great potential here, but it’s wasted by bad writing, a plot that falls short, and characters that are just too stupid and not believable.

I’m seriously disappointed, because I really wanted to like this book and it just fell flat. I could probably write more about how the relationship between Kate and Amelia was mostly showing not telling and despite making it seem like the two were super close, they felt really distant from one another. Or I could write about how the whole Ben subplot was creepy and awkward. Or I could even talk about the Magpies, whose secret circle isn’t really all that secret. Or even about how everyone magically reveals their secrets within the last few pages, wrapping up all of the loose ends in a convenient little bow.

But I won’t.

Because the main problem with this novel isn’t really the plot, or the lack of brains the characters seem to have, it’s the writing. I almost feel like with a better author the stupid plot points maybe would have become plot perks or something. Instead, the book is just lackluster and boring. And a novel with this much potential and this kind of plot shouldn’t be boring.

Overall: I know there are a lot of people who loved this. Loved it to the point that it’s going to be a movie starring Nicole Kidman. But I didn’t like it. It was boring. It was unbelievable. And I just didn’t enjoy reading this. This is McCreight’s debut novel and she did have great ideas, so I’ll probably pick up her next book to see what she’ll come up with next. But yea, this book was bad.
Profile Image for Sammee.
329 reviews31 followers
May 24, 2013
In a nutshell this book is what I said it would be - a Lifetime movie meets Gossip Girl mixed with The Skulls & a dash of Law&Order: SVU for, an attempt at, good measure. If that is your sort of thing then enjoy but if you are looking for imagination, colorful writing, complex characters & a story that doesn't have plot holes then I suggest you pass on this book. EW review gave this an 'A' calling it "this year's Gone Girl — you remember Gillian Flynn's best-selling nail-biter of 2012" WRONG! That book was genius - twisted and haunted you long after that last page. It's laughable to put these two books side by side. Reconstructing Amelia - I could go on but it's not even worth it. WACKNESS!
Profile Image for Whitney Erwin.
190 reviews
March 12, 2022
This was a fantastic debut novel!! Kept me engrossed and turning the pages. I subtracted a star because unfortunately I didn’t love the ending, I felt there was a bit more potential there but still a great book, overall. Would recommend!
Profile Image for Carol.
344 reviews318 followers
August 21, 2014
O-M-G! I'm so glad that I was a teenage girl way before the arrival of the internet. These girlies take bullying to a whole new level!
Profile Image for Korey.
584 reviews15 followers
June 21, 2013
Good lord this book is awful. It reads like a novelization of a particularly insipid Lifetime movie. I can't even fathom how this dreck got published.

This book is a disaster in all respects. The characters are paper thin and uniformly obnoxious. They are each imbued with exactly one personality trait that is hammered into the ground ("mom works!" "Daughter reads" "boy crazy best friend"). The characters have no interior lives. None of these characters feel like people. They are some of the most underdeveloped characters I have ever read: to call them cardboard would be an insult to cardboard.

This author's prose is also terrible. She has no flare with language at all. She eschews descriptive language of any kind, and her writing style (sentence structure and vocabulary) are grossly simplistic. A brain damaged seven year old could turn a better phrase than this author. Her dialogue is similarly tin eared.

The plot is alternately super predictable and laughably contrived. There is no dramatic tension, only a maddening desire for the book to end.

I am no book snob. I don't need literary greatness. I would have been plenty happy with this book if it was merely entertaining. Instead it is only highly irritating.
Profile Image for Blaine.
710 reviews569 followers
August 30, 2021
Sometimes it’s hard to tell how fast the current’s moving until you’re headed over a waterfall.
On one level, Reconstructing Amelia is a mystery. Everyone—even her heartbroken mother Kate—believes the party line story that fifteen-year-old Amelia Baron jumped to her death from the roof of her elite private school after getting caught cheating on an assignment. But when Kate gets an anonymous text a few weeks later reading “She didn’t jump,” Kate convinces a police detective to reopen the investigation.

Reconstructing Amelia does answer that mystery in the final pages, but it is secondary to the larger story of these high school children and their parents. Even Kate observes late in the novel that what drove Amelia up to the roof that day was ultimately more important than whether her death was suicide, an accident of some king, or a deliberate act. And what drove her up there was a tragic combination of secrets, peer pressure, first love, cat fishing, bullying, and good old teen angst.

Reconstructing Amelia has an interesting structure, shifting not only narrative perspectives between Kate and Amelia but also shifting between different periods of time. It took a while to get used to it, but I liked how you would see a scene from one perspective and understand it one way, and then re-experience the same scene later from the other perspective with a much greater understanding of what was happening. However, the idea that the detective would keep permitting Kate to accompany him on his interviews got less and less believable as the book went along.

Reconstructing Amelia is not a happy story. Every page is haunted either by the death that has occurred or by the death that’s approaching. Every person in Amelia’s life played a role—some much larger than others—in her death. In the end, there was a real Thirteen Reasons Why vibe to this book, especially watching adult after adult fail this girl despite every sign that she needs their help. Still, it’s a good story, full of twists and several reveals that tie everything together. Recommended.

Buddy read with Kathy.
Profile Image for Kristin (KC).
251 reviews25.1k followers
June 1, 2015
*3.5 Stars

• Gripping and mysterious build-up
• Intriguing plot
• Wonderfully composed characters
• Decent conclusion, but wasn't as blown away as I'd hoped

*Would recommend*
Profile Image for Lisa.
431 reviews27 followers
April 10, 2013
A glowing review in Entertainment Weekly suggested this book is the must-read thriller of 2013, the next Gone Girl. Based on that review, and bored by the last book I finished, I was eager to read this one. But the glowing review left me disappointed. Don't get me wrong - this is a fun, engaging thriller that kept me reading. I finished it in about a day and a half. But I would hardly rave about it.

Kate, a single mother in her late 30s, is a junior partner in a large NY law firm, logging in the hours and missing her teenaged daughter, Amelia. Her world is shattered when Amelia throws herself off the roof of her school after Amelia is caught plagiarizing a paper. Or did Amelia kill herself? Kate has her doubts, which multiply after she receives a mysterious, anonymous text.

Told in the present (from Kate's perspective) interspersed with the past (from Amelia's perspective in the weeks leading up to her death, as well as through texts and Facebook status updates), the book kept me reading. Some of the twists were predictable, and others were not, and I was entertained throughout.
Profile Image for Norma.
551 reviews11.8k followers
October 8, 2016
3.5 stars / Recommend / fast, easy read / enjoyed the characters and the story / suspected what actually happened to Amelia and a few other mysteries / was happy with the ending / no real wow factor for me but all in all it was a very good read
Profile Image for Katie.
69 reviews
May 20, 2013
The premise behind this book was intriguing but I find myself deeply unsatisfied by the end. The format itself was interesting by showing so many different mediums, though at times confusing.

Throughout the book, I was interested to know the truth about what happened to Amelia. Did she commit suicide or was it foul play? Were the Magpies involved? Who was really her father? Who is Ben? But in the end I found so many or the answers disappointing that it made the journey feel like a waste as well.

On top of that there were several things that I found absolutely ridiculous about this plot:

1. What cop in their right mind would allow a mother of the victim to be so involved with the investigation? Even leading the investigation at times. I'm guessing this was a literary mechanism to allow for information of the investigation to be explained by Kate and with her point of view. But really? Couldn't the author just have added parts with the detective's point of view? Absolutely ludicrous. I know this isn't law and order, but come on!
2. Kate is super surprised to find out that Jeremy is the father of Amelia because they only had sex one time. Really? Does getting pregnant now require multiple occasions of sexual intercourse? How naive can she be? If you're having sex with multiple people and you happen to get pregnant, perhaps you shouldn't just assume the father of your child is the one that you had sex with the most. Some lawyer she is - can't even use any logical theory.

My point..and I do have one. This book could have been brilliant, but there were far too many missed opportunities that just didn't pan out. Not too much the hard to miss typos. But I suppose I should blame the editor for that one.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Ines.
316 reviews185 followers
July 11, 2019

I am very confused and i do not know how to review this book, surely it was a reading that I devoured in a few days and that really it hooked me a lot..
At the same time, it all seemed to me too much exaggerated and in some cases even grotesque...
I immediately say that Amelia seemed to me (sorry I know, she was 15 years old,) a poor fool for how she is described by the author....
It was not a character that involved me emotionally and I certainly had no desire to cheer for her, and no way to be worried about her becoming...
The setting in the private and expensive high school was embarrassing, I don’t know maybe i am european and i can not understand certain dynamics of sororities or school groups, they never existed in our high school system, really... it leaves me amazed by this concentration of collective depravation of these young people, there will be millions of them here too,i know, I don’t doubt.... but the story, as it was told, was just a neverending loss of credibility ...
Good and adequate mistery and suspence, but too artificial and not well built in the narration.
The question of partners, illegitimate children, betrayals are the most tacky aspect of all! Let’s face it, it held little on everything else...
Too bad because the initial idea presented in the book was not bad at all....

Sono molto confusa e non so bene come recensire questo libro, sicuramente è stata una lettura che ho divorato in pochi giorni e che mi ha veramente preso molto...
allo stesso tempo però, mi sembrava tutto veramente troppo esagerato e in alcuni casi persino grottesco....
Dico subito che Amelia mi è sembrata da subito,(scusatemi lo so, aveva 15 anni,) una povera fessa per come viene descritta dall' autrice....
Per me non è stato certo un personaggio che mi abbia coinvolto emotivamente e non ho certo avuto desiderio di tifare per lei, figuriamoci preoccupazione per il suo divenire...
L' ambientazione nella High school privata di alto livello era imbarazzante, non so forse noi siamo europei e certe dinamiche di fraternità o gruppi scolastici non riusciamo a capirli essendo estranei al nostro mondo scolastico, veramente.... mi lascia basita questo concentrato di depravazione collettiva di questi giovani, ce ne saranno a milioni anche qui, non metto in dubbio..... ma la storia, man mano che veniva raccontata, perdeva colpi di credibilità a non finire....
Sicuramente suspence adeguata, ma troppo artificiosa e non ben congeniata.
La questione dei partner, figli, tradimenti etcc è l'aspetto piu' pacchiano di tutto! diciamolo, reggeva poco su tutto il resto...
Peccato perchè l'idea iniziale presentata nel libro non era male per niente....
Profile Image for Jayme.
1,077 reviews1,642 followers
June 21, 2020
Did high school sophomore Amelia jump off of the school's roof?

Or was she pushed?

Told through the viewpoints of Amelia, her Mom Kate, Facebook posts, text messages and a hurtful high school blog, this book had many twists and turns that I never saw coming..
Profile Image for Dem.
1,175 reviews1,064 followers
August 26, 2016
Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight is one of those books that parents of teenagers will read and think, could this possibly be happening in my child's life or is it all just hype.

"Do you really know whats going on inside your daughter's head"

What a brilliant premise for a novel. We have become so advanced in social media and yet so naive to the dangers and consequences of the advancements. Once there was a time when bullying at school might have been confined to the school yard or the playground but now with social media the bully has access to the victim on a 24/7 basis. That's a scary thought......

I enjoyed the plot for this novel as it is thought provoking with plenty of drama and the sort of book that should create quite a good group discussion in a book club.

I did however find elements of the story quite unrelalistic especially when This type of inconsistencies in a novel tend to bug me and I just cant let go.

This was a book club read and I liked it and will look forward to discussing it with friends.
Profile Image for Maria.
283 reviews8 followers
June 24, 2015
This book was one of the biggest disappointments I've read in a long time. I like mysteries, I like books about teenagers, I like books that incorporate different kinds of media (e-mails, texts, blog posts, etc.), and I think the book had a good premise: a seemingly-happy fifteen year old girl flings herself off the roof of her fancy, private school, and her mother is determined to figure out why. But it all goes downhill from there.

Amelia is the cliche of the Perfect High School Daughter: she is a star athlete, a straight-A student who would NEVER do anything to seriously disrespect her mother or her crazy best friend or step out of line in any way. Amelia is bland and flat, simply too good for anyone to relate to. She's so innocent in everything she does, so earnestly good but completely naive. She has literally no obvious flaws, except being "too nice" and letting herself get walked all over. Who wants to read a story about a perfect person? Her mother, Kate, is similarly cliched. She is a high-powered New York lawyer who works crazy hours but remains consistently devoted to her teenaged daughter. She'll drop everything at her very important meeting to go get her daughter, even though she'll internally monologue about how stressful it is for three or four paragraphs first. Their relationships is too forced in a Gilmore Girls kind of way...Amelia says things like, "don't get me wrong I LOVED my mother, even if she was never around", and Kate talks about how she and Amelia had different special bonding activities every Friday, Saturday and Sunday that neither of them "would EVER cancel on". They're too-perfect characters who have to keep reminding us how perfect they both are.

The plot, which had so much potential, is kind of a mess. There are so many useless characters that serve little to no purpose. The plot isn't intricate enough to require detailed descriptions of Kate's secretary, all of Amelia's fellow classmates, the guidance counselor who doesn't end up helping at all. We learn the names of so, so many characters and then almost all of them are completely irrelevant to the plot. There's a subplot of Kate coming to terms with her own parents that never pans out, and email exchanges with a guy who teaches English in Ghana that is not even close to relevant by the longest stretch. Why is this book, only four hundred pages, packed with so many irrelevant details and people that end up being utterly pointless?

The most interesting story is the one that's cut off by Amelia's death: meek, perfect Amelia is tapped by the Magpies, a not-so-secret club of girls who, as far as the reader can tell, basically just throw parties and talk about how secret their club is. She finds herself really attracted to one of the other girls in the club, and decides to stick with it for a chance to get closer to her, even though the girl that Amelia likes is devoid of any real personality except being "crazy beautiful" and kind of spacey. But the club predictably turns on Amelia and turns her life into the specific kind of living hell only teenagers can inflict on one another. THIS is the meat of the story: Amelia coming to terms with her sexuality, being used by a girl she thinks she's in love with, and attempting to hold everything together as the other girls try to rip her apart. Amelia's death is not a catalyst for the story, but a quick ending to the only interesting plot line. This book had the potential to be one of the few really good books about teenage girls coming out and dealing with bullying, but it opted for cheap maybe-murder mystery instead.

I listened to the audio version of this book, and I will say that Khristine Hvam did a good job with the narration. She created a lovely voice for Amelia, even though her Brooklyn police officer accent should maybe be retired.

I really wouldn't recommend this book to anyone. It is deeply unsatisfying in both plot and writing, and I expected so much more from such an interesting idea.
Profile Image for Rose.
1,852 reviews1,046 followers
January 29, 2016
Initial reaction: I was really surprised how engaged I was throughout this entire narrative. The book somehow missed my radar when it was first released, but I got it on Google Play for $1.99 during one of their sales. I couldn't put this down at all. I loved the format, loved the way it kept me guessing, and the characters were well constructed. I still need to collect my thoughts, but this is looking like a 4 star read.

Full review:

Edit 1/28/2016: Character name corrected to Kate. Apologies for the confusion!

Confession time: "Reconstructing Amelia" is the kind of mystery that I really love reading, and it's no surprise to me that I really enjoyed the ride this book took me on. It had a boatload of twists I wasn't expecting, tragic coincidences, and characters I could very well see the motivations and reactions for throughout the narrative.

This narrative trades between the story of the mother, Kate, and Amelia, her 15-year old daughter. Kate is a hard working lawyer that tries to do well by Amelia despite some secrets in the past she would rather not deal with if she can help it. But Amelia starts acting in erratic ways that reach a point of no return as Kate's called by Amelia's school to learn that her daughter's been suspended. Next thing you know, Amelia's dead of an apparent suicide.

Kate feels the enormous weight of guilt for a number of reasons (questioning her parenting, not recognizing the signs in the days before Amelia's death, not getting to the school on time, etc.). But one text throws everything into focus for Kate - one sent anonymously to her phone:

"She didn't jump."

Kate begins the quest to figure out what happened to her only daughter, and reveals a twisted web of cover-ups, lies, complicated romances and relationships, jealousy, bullying, among other things. Technically, I ended up reading this novel twice because I read my Google Play version and then downloaded the audiobook from my library (which was exceptionally read by one of my favorite narrators: Khristine Hvam). Kate and Amelia both were relatable characters, and I found myself following the timeline and portrayals well even as the book moved from past to present and featured trades between texts (which if you're thrown out of the narrative in the print, the audiobook does a good job of presenting those in an alternative way) and perspective points.

Definitely would recommend this read, and I'd gladly read it again for the experience.

Overall score: 4/5 stars.
Profile Image for HarperCollins Canada.
86 reviews139 followers
March 8, 2015
Reconstructing Amelia is a debut novel by Kimberly McCreight, and, my gosh, is it good. In the beginning of the novel readers meet Kate, a single mother and successful lawyer who struggles daily with determining which role is more important. Her daughter, Amelia, is a bright, creative, thoughtful and focused high school student. Despite Kate’s “crushing work hours, she knew her daughter. Really knew her,” she assures herself. But the closeness of their bond is called to question when Kate receives a phone call... Amelia has been suspended for cheating. Upon reaching the school, Kate discovers that the severity of the situation has escalated: Amelia has jumped to her death from the school’s roof. Blinded by grief, Kate accepts Amelia’s apparent suicide as truth until one afternoon when she receives a chilling, anonymous text message: “She didn’t jump…”.

Intrigued? I was too. And from the first chapter on until the final chapter, I could not put this book down. The gripping storyline follows Kate as she tries to uncover the truth behind her daughter’s death, leading the reader through the lives (and lies) of students, parents, teachers and employees. No one knows the truth, and everyone has something to hide.

Read Kaitlyn's full review on The Savvy Reader, here: http://thesavvyreader.ca/2013/reconst...
Profile Image for Trudi.
615 reviews1,392 followers
March 11, 2014

2.5 stars

I could really tear this book a new one if I wanted to, seeing as how it is plagued by incredulous plot twists and nonsensical melodramatic character motivations that at times positively scream daytime soap opera antics.

Despite these maddening shortcomings, I was able to overlook most of them most of the time as the novel fairly hums along with just enough speed and tension to keep you turning the pages. It's a beach read in the sense that if you are sun stoned and feeling epically lazy, this one has just enough salacious bite to keep you conscious and wondering just what the hell did happen to Amelia that day on the roof: did she jump? or was she pushed?

I liked how the author uses various bits of social media (texts, Facebook, emails, etc) to "reconstruct" a young woman's life and state of mind proving how much can be found there and yet how inadequate all that "sharing" can turn out to be when your goal is to really understand someone. But in the end, it just felt hollow and gimmicky anyway.

I was just expecting so much more here with such a fantastic premise fueling its engine. In the hands of Gillian Flynn and Megan Abbott, I'm certain I would have gotten exactly what I was looking for. Not here though. Not this time.

One thing that really bugged me:

Profile Image for Brenda.
725 reviews150 followers
June 25, 2016
Time to deconstruct Reconstructing Amelia. I think I must have enjoyed this book. After all, I never considered not finishing it. So it kept me engaged. I had no problems switching from Amelia to Kate and back to Amelia. And I had no problems reading current time and 1997. I wanted to know the whole backstory.

This was not, however, a perfect book. I really objected to how Lew the Lieutenant let Kate get so deeply involved in the investigation. She was the one poring over what was on Amelia's phone and computer, and questioning witnesses. That was bad enough, but not once did she do as she was told. "Go home" but she didn't. "Let me do the talking" but she didn't. "Wait for me" but she didn't. At times I could feel Kate's grief, but then I'd think she was jumping to conclusions and raging for no reason.

As for Amelia, I felt sorry for her. She spent way too much time alone, had very little guidance from Kate, and seemed smart enough to know she should turn to an adult when things got way out of her control.

Some reviewers felt this was a story about bullying, but I didn't. Amelia wanted to be accepted and she was so lonely that she accepted the invitation from The Magpies. It was only when she wanted out that she was pressured.

The Magpies were snobs, and so were some of their mothers, and so were some of the teachers and administrators at the school. Even the first cop, Molina, was a terrible guy. I really found not one single character that I related to.

So, I got the backstory. I learned who was who and what had happened, although some of it seemed unlikely. I doubt I'd recommend this book because it was just okay.
Profile Image for Amelia.
172 reviews49 followers
October 6, 2018
I quite enjoyed this book.

The ending was a little bit of a letdown. There was this build-up to the ending and Kate finding out what really happened to Amelia but then it ended up being something very predictable.

I did like how the mystery unravelled, going back and forth between Amelia's and Kate's point of view while everything still remained this huge mystery, and the build-up towards the end. It was only the conclusion of the book that ended up ruining the story for me.

I think McCreight did an amazing job with this novel, making sure all the details match up and leaving no unanswered questions.
Profile Image for Karin Slaughter.
Author 111 books60.8k followers
January 14, 2014
Good first novel. Captured the world really well. Could've used a tad more suspense. I'll read her next.
Profile Image for Celeste.
869 reviews2,307 followers
February 7, 2017
2.5 out of 5, rounded up to 3.

This was not my favorite book. But that’s not the book’s fault. I’m just not a fan of contemporary murder mysteries unless they’re penned by Nora Roberts, my favorite guilty-pleasure author. I would have never picked this book up on my own, but joining a real-life book club has gotten me out of my fantasy comfort zone. All of that being said, the hatred I had for the first half of the book mellowed, and I sped through the last half.

I think one of my big problems with contemporary thrillers is that their plot twists are over-hyped. Going into a book like this or Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train, I psych myself up to be shocked. But then I’m not. Sure, there are some surprises, but I end up predicting many of the twists. Perhaps this is from overexposure, but the books lose a bit of their zing for me, regardless. Also, contemporary thrillers tend to have an overabundance of unlikeable characters, and this book was no exception. I understand that the writers are going for realism here, but their view on reality is depressingly pessimistic in my opinion. When characters have no redeeming qualities, I have a hard time connecting to them and caring about their stories.

Once I passed the halfway point in the story, I did start to care a bit more about Amelia and Karen, but I was never quite able to cement a connection with them. And, unfortunately, none of the “big reveals” in the plot were surprising to me, but I won’t get into those as I’m trying for a spoiler-free review. But I did enjoy this one more than both of the aforementioned books, though I rated Gone Girl higher because I had read less of this genre at that time and was thus more surprised by the twists. All in all, it was a decent read, and would probably appeal more to a reader who doesn’t prefer their stories filled with dragons and magic and sassy talking swords.
Profile Image for Bren fall in love with the sea..
1,532 reviews258 followers
March 23, 2020
“Sometimes its hard to tell how fast the current's moving until you're headed over a waterfall”

Kimberly McCreight-Reconstructing Amelia

Haha. I looked at some of my Goodreads friends reviews and most rated this book highly. I myself was crazy about it . And why not? This is a GREAT READ!

When I first read this I wrote I think this maybe the best book on bullying I have ever read. I still think it is up there, along with Weightless and Love Heather. The author really gets inside the head of high school kids. I was blown away.

Reading books on bullying can be tragic because many of them do not end well and this book is as tragic as any book you will read on the subject.

It is also a mystery and jumps back and forth in time. The actual bullying itself is not light reading and maybe triggering to those that have a difficult time with the subject matter.

For me, the only book on bullying I have read that is at this level is "Love, Heather". Weightless is a great read as well. I read "Weightless" after I read Reconstructing Amelia and though I rated both a five and think both are exceptional, I liked this book a bit better. It reached my inner core and touched me to the point I was in tears and when a book can do that..it gets a five.

Amelia narrates for some of the book and it is so heartbreaking because the reader forms an attachment to her. Amelia is someone anybody on GR would want to know. She is smart and curious and just a wonderful character. But it is heartbreaking because you are reading about this beautiful and bright girl with so much potential but you already know how it is going to end. So it's visceral and tragic.

I have discussed this book at length with many people I know and have not yet one person who did not like it. I do not know if this is a film or not but it should be. I had heard whispers that it was being made into a movie but do not know if that ever happened.

And with all the real life cases of bullying going on maybe this should be required reading in school.I have no idea if it would change anything but books like this..they teach some important life lessons.

Highly recommended. Excellent.
Profile Image for Sara the Librarian.
729 reviews303 followers
April 20, 2013
So a few weeks ago I was reading reviews here and I can't recall the book but someone pointed out that a problem they have with books that deal with girls coming into their sexuality or falling in love for the first time is this slightly absurd idea that they have no idea what's going on. There's a lot of "what are these strange feelings I am suddenly having that I have never before even heard about?" and "I am completely unfamiliar with this strange tingling between my legs that has never been mentioned in any of the social media outlets I frequent or books/television/movies I watch daily!?"

Its a very valid point and unfortunately it was really stuck in my head while I was reading Kimberly McCreight's well written but somehow rudimentary seeming "Reconstructing Amelia."

There's a huge amount of retreading very familiar territory here and that's not always a bad thing if you have something new to say. Alas this ends up being a fairly typical absentee mom didn't really "know" her daughter until it was too late followed by a giant mess of cliched plot devices and stock thriller characters with so many psychological problems between them its hard to imagine how they all function daily in society.

Without giving away too much, because despite my misgivings I wouldn't say DON'T read this just don't go in thinking its the next "Gone Girl" like the book jacket reviews claim, you the reader will be given some GIANT clues about what Amelia's "secrets" are within like the first four pages, they will seem really obvious because they are and then you still have another 250+ pages to go until her mom figures it all out. And, as mentioned above, it was very, very hard for me to accept that Amelia herself, a child of the new millenium who lives in frickin' NYC doesn't know whats going on and doesn't have a SINGLE person she feels she can talk to.

There was just too much suspension of disbelief required here for my comfort level. I can deal with the hackneyed "teenagers are so cruel to each other" plot lines up to a point until it just becomes absurd and there's a random story line involving Amelia's secret text exchanges with the mysterious "Ben" who turns out to be someone so utterly ridiculous that when his identity is finally revealed its so bizarre it feels as though McCreight suddenly remembered she had to have him be SOMEBODY and just pulled a name out of hat.

I think there's just too much going on here. There's a massive conspiracy covering up Amelia's death on multiple levels and so many people are involved for so many crazy reasons that eventually NOTHING rings true.

My biggest problem though, and this is an issue I have with a lot of writers these days, is McCreight's tendency to pull her punches.

Yes, Amelia's mom works too much and could be around more, but rather then make that an actual issue or a real character flaw on her part McCreight actually goes to great links to continually remind the reader what a great mom she actually is. She and Amelia are always going out and doing wonderful bonding things in the city and in her flashback chapters Amelia herself mentions wishing her mom was around more but also constantly waxes poetic about how she KNOWS how much she loves her, she REALLY, REALLY knows!!!

Even the resolution of Amelia's death is half hearted. I would have preferred an open ended, what really happened sort of thing to the direction it actually goes. Its one of those non-endings that leaves everyone innocent or at least sympathetic enough to sort of force the reader not to be too angry at anyone.

This was an empty read which is almost worse than a bad read.
Profile Image for TL .
1,764 reviews35 followers
June 17, 2015
""I don't know what she was doing with them," Seth said, "But I know that nothing Amelia could have read would have changed how much she loved you. And she did, Kate. She really loved you."

"Then why do I feel even worse?"

Seth reached forward and put his hand over Kate's. "Because she's still gone.

This book tugged at my heart, and made me cry at times... also frustrated and angry at some of the things happening.

It drew me in from the start and didn't let go, letting up now and then to let some things unfold and clues dropping in at different turns but then would pick up back again. The tension and emotions run thick in this throughout and shows how vicious people can be sometimes. Also, the secrets people keep aren't always what they appear.

LOVED Kate and Amelia's relationship in this, their life wasn't perfect but Kate did her best to make sure Amelia knew she was loved. Sylvia I had trouble liking but she did care about Amelia.

Things I thought I knew or guessed out were turned on their head and some I hadn't considered were very surprising but made sense. Still wanted to kick a couple of them haha but *shrugs*

The ending... yikes. The last pages counting down to the day Amelia died... the old but true saying "couldn't put the book down." The sense of dread when I realized what was going on and hoping it wouldn't be true.


As for whether this person was telling the truth? I certainly hope so.

No complaints here, a gripping and powerful novel... one of the best I've read this year so far.

Emily says it all here better than I can: Emily's review

I would recommend it, just carve out some time for is all :) Happy reading!

Would I read it again? Hmm... maybe. If so, probably would be audiobook
Profile Image for Katie.
209 reviews18 followers
December 30, 2015
I guess we have to thank Gillian Flynn for making the literary thriller one of the hot new genres...after I finished reading this book, I couldn't stop thinking about how much this book would appeal to fans of Gone Girl. It's not QUITE as twisted and dark as Gillian Flynn's novels, but the elements are definitely present, and this is a powerful read.

The story begins with Kate Baron, a single mother and attorney, receiving a call from her daughter Amelia's exclusive private school, saying that Amelia had plagiarized her latest English essay. Kate can't believe that her intelligent daughter would have done something like this, so she heads to the school to sort everything out. By the time she gets there, however, she finds that Amelia has fallen to her death from the school roof in an apparent act of suicide.

Several months after Amelia's death, Kate receives a text message saying "Amelia didn't jump," confirming what she already knew in her heart - that Amelia didn't commit suicide. As Kate begins her own investigation into Amelia's death, she realizes just how many secrets her daughter had, and how she barely knew her daughter at all. This is a thrilling and intense mystery, but it's also a poignant story of high school hazing, love, sexuality, and friendship.

One of this book's biggest accomplishments is how well the author was able to recreate the teenage experience. The story may take place at a privileged high school, but the uncertainty, fear, and frustration are definitively universal for anyone who went to an American high school. It certainly brought back powerful memories for me, although I actually haven't been out of high school long enough to realistically forget much. The inclusion of the text messages & Facebook posts also go a long way towards making this feel contemporary and realistic, but never dumbed down. That in itself is a huge accomplishment.

The structure of the story is interesting, as it cuts back and forth between flashbacks and the present day, and includes excerpts from text messages, Facebook statuses, and a mysterious gossip-based blog centered around the high school. As a result, the reader is put in Kate's position by having to piece together the mystery using small scraps of information. This makes the book incredibly fast-paced and readable...I finished this one approximately 24 hours after I first started reading. This is a page-turner of the highest order.

As I mentioned before, this comparison to Gillian Flynn should be taken with a tiny grain of salt, as Reconstructing Amelia never quite reaches the levels of shock and revulsion that Gone Girl or Sharp Objects seem to manage. But this isn't a downside of the book, just a comment on how the story itself is a bit different. However, there are still plenty of unlikeable characters worthy of the reader's intense dislike, and this portrait of the confused and manipulated high school student is extremely powerful.

Recommended for: fans of Gillian Flynn, teenagers looking for relatable yet more mature reading material, and readers looking for a thrilling novel more complex than the average bestselling thriller.

Readalikes: Okay, Gillian Flynn's the obvious go-to author. If you enjoy well-crafted, dark mysteries and unlikeable characters, you can't go wrong with any of her three novels. Gone Girl is the most popular (and the most recent), but Sharp Objects and Dark Places are exceptional as well.

In the Woods by Tana French. This is definitely much more of a straight-up mystery, but it's exceptionally dark, creates both likeable and unlikeable characters, and reveals bits and pieces of the mystery through flashbacks interspersed in the main narrative. Plus, In the Woods is written with a definite literary style in mind, and the psychological profiles of the characters are remarkably astute.

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. This book places less emphasis on the darkness of human nature than it does on the moral and ethical issues surrounding school violence, but it accurately portrays the life of a downtrodden and manipulated high school student, pieces together the characters' mysterious backstory through flashbacks, and keeps the reader turning pages well into the night.
Profile Image for Becky.
56 reviews
July 5, 2013
I read a ton of mysteries/thrillers, so when I saw this one was getting all sorts of glowing reviews and that there's even a Nicole Kidman movie in the works, I had to read it, of course. For the first third, I found it to be a decent suspense novel, and I was even impressed at the believability of some of the plot twists.

But then that all fell apart, as if the author had just thrown in a bunch of plot points she had no idea how to resolve. Several of them were faux-resolved in completely unbelievable ways—as in, I have read trashy drug store thrillers that are more believable. In one case, something hugely unbelievable is revealed and all the other characters kind of shrug and forget about it (for those who have read the book, I'm talking about what you learn about the teacher).

Equally bad: several of the key mysteries are all solved by IT guys tracing 'anonymous' text messages. As in nothing in the book really needed to happen (including the reconstruction referred to in the title) except that we needed to wait a few weeks for the forensic IT team to do its job. Also, the dead girl's mother follows the lead investigator all around interviewing suspects, etc., which even I know would never happen. The author was an attorney so I'm sure she knows too.

Just a terrible mystery. I have no idea why it's gotten such great reviews.
Profile Image for Susan.
1,062 reviews200 followers
June 20, 2017
I gave this the old college try of 75 pages and then read the ending. UGH. I think this is actually a YA book and I found reading texts and Facebook pages just down right annoying. The story is not original, the writing is trite and nothing appealed to me. I worry how I will discuss this at book club without hurting the feelings of the person recommending it. This was not for me and there are just too many good books for me to read to waste my time on this.
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