Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone
by Kat Rosenfeld
First line: "The night before Amelia Anne Richardson bled her life away on a parched dirt road outside of town, I bled out my dignity in the back of a pick-up truck under a star-pricked sky."
Debut author Rosenfeld digs deeply into a small town's secrets with atmospheric and lyrical prose. This is a selection for older teens, with a nasty murder mystery, and plenty of unpleasant, awkward teen sex driving the action.
The language is evocative and haunting - no doubt about it - this is a beautifully written book. But, the author did not shy away from ugly topics. Of course, any book with a murder mystery at the heart of it is bound to be serious. Flashbacks gradually reveal that the murder victim Amelia Anne was a graduating college senior with big dreams who was ultimately held back by a petty, controlling boyfriend. Mainly, the book is about how much it sucks to grow up in a small town. Your business is everybody's business. You can be born there and live there your whole life, but if your parents moved there from somewhere else, or your family has money, or if your family doesn't have money, or if you are in any way different at all - that's it, you'll never really be one of "them" - you'll never be accepted or fit in. The townsfolk are harsh and judgmental. There's a brief scene, describing how the town finally rallies around a woman (an outsider) whose son has died. I think it's meant to show that if you are on the right side of things, being an "insider" in a small town can feel like being in the warmest, most loving, supportive cocoon. For me, this scene was too little, too late.
I can't remember the last time I have read such a suspenseful book. The main character, Becca is a high school senior who talks a lot about how no one ever seems to escape from their small town, living drab, boring, humdrum lives. She herself seriously considers giving up her college dreams and just staying in town for her boyfriend, high school dropout James. Paired with all the descriptions of nausea that she feels, the way her stomach is always feeling clenched, and another time when she randomly vomits for almost no reason - I thought I had it all figured out! The poor girl must be pregnant! That's why this whole college plan is weighing so heavily on her. I was dead wrong on that account and confused by the ending. I was absolutely taken by surprise by the twist at the ending - did not see it coming, at all.
I'm not sure who I'd recommend this book to. Probably mature YA readers, who are mostly reading adult literary fiction of the sort that is simultaneously awful, sad, terrible yet poignant. Thoughtful, serious and sad, this is a beautiful book that stays with you, long after the final page is turned.
I purchased a copy of this book.