Review : Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield
What it’s about :
Becca had her post-high-school life all planned out, and she had always been looking forward to moving out of her small town.
It’s her last summer before college, and she wants to make the most of it. But her plans are twice broken when her boyfriend breaks up with her, and an unidentified girl’s body is discovered on the road, all in the same night.
For this girl, and for Becca, things are forever changed.
My thoughts :
Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone is not your typical YA mystery; the pace is slow, the ambiance is heavy and the characters’ preoccupations are more “adult” than “young”. In fact, I believe it could almost belong on the shelves of the regular literary fiction. If you’ve heard of New Adult literature – which would place itself between the YA fiction and adult literature – then you’ll probably understand where I’m trying to go with this. The characters are done with high school, and there’s frank talk of sex with a touch of partying. I would say the author doesn’t gloss over things, without using these aspects in an exaggerated manner.
From the start, Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone has a very different and unique feel; the tone is quiet and the atmosphere gloomy, and everything is going at quite a slow pace. Rosenfield’s writing is gorgeously descriptive in an almost poetic way :
In a small town, murder is always three-dimensional. We make it that way, elevating it and turning it over until it’s more than a simple tragedy, until it becomes tangible. Murder in a small town is always more than a paragraph in the local paper. In a place so insulated, where lives are so small and gone about so quietly, violent death hangs in the air – tinting everything crimson, weaving itself into a shimmering heat that rises off the winding asphalt roads at noon. It oozes from taps and runs through the gas pumps. It sits at the dinner table, murmuring in urgent low tones under the clinking of glassware. (p. 59)
With her beautiful writing, Rosenfield tells two stories; Amelia Anne’s, which we know will end in tragedy, and Becca’s, who finds herself deeply affected by the brutal murder. Their stories are being told alternatively, Becca’s in first person and Amelia Anne’s in third. Though they take place in different times, and though they are at different places in their lives (Becca just finished high school and is heading to college, Amelia Anne just finished college), they both share a certain mix of excitement and apprehension for the future, while struggling with their personal relationships.
The mystery was very predictable, but in the end, I felt the book wasn’t about the mystery itself. It was more about growing up, facing life, making decisions. Becca is facing the uncertainty of her future, and the death of an anonymous girl not much older than she is really shakes her up. It’s a moment in time that, unexpectedly, completely changes her life.
Having had the time to think about it a little more, I can say that I quite liked Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone, although I don’t believe it is a novel for everyone. It’s dark, somewhat pessimistic, and more than a little heart-wrenching to get to know Amelia Anne while knowing her life is about to end. But the book also has a beautiful prose and an interesting observation of small towns complexities, and I can applaud that. So I would carefully recommend this one, all the while looking forward to what Rosenfield writes next.