Friday, August 24, 2012
Review: Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield
Becca is on the brink of leaving her suffocatingly small town—just one summer to go before college—when the appearance of a dead girl’s body shocks everyone. As the claustrophobic community of Bridgeton attempts to figure out the meaning of this death and its impact on them, Becca finds herself clinging to her old life—her old job, her high school boyfriend—scared to see herself in Amelia Anne’s fate.
AMELIA ANNE IS DEAD AND GONE is not really a book that wants you to like it. From the uncomfortable opening sex scene to the way Becca’s plotline ends up intersecting with that of Amelia Anne’s death, it’s like you’re forcibly pressed close to the story and its ugliness, so that every blemish is magnified. If you’re the kind of reader who likes this no-gloss dissection of flawed characters and setting, then great! It wasn’t my type of read, but I can see why other will find this winning.
Say goodbye to your romantic conception of the American small town. Bridgeton is vicious and claustrophobic, its bright spots—such as stars at night and a swimming hole—marred by the harsh reality of tensions between locals and summer residents, people’s desperate desire to escape its black hole gravity. As someone who definitely has a romantic conception of the American small town, AMELIA ANNE’s depiction nearly made me cry, it was so unforgiving. It’s the same with the characters. They gossip and slander and take sides and make poor decisions and say terrible things to one another. But Kat Rosenfield does not apologize for reality—and nor should she. Even I have to respect her for that.
That being said, if you’re the kind of reader who likes a certain amount of happiness in your books, AMELIA ANNE might not deliver. Becca, the protagonist, is not particularly likable: she denies the harshness of reality by retreating within herself, and forgives her boyfriend for his really very heartless act. While in theory I can understand her reactions—she’s on the brink of leaving Bridgeton, exciting but also terrified, when Amelia Anne’s shocking death sends her reeling and petrifies her—I don’t think they were explained as well as they could have been in the book.
In addition, I found the prose too “pretty” in an unoriginal sort of way. Unfortunately I don’t have the book on hand to find examples, but passages that I could tell were supposed to be insightful or beautiful instead left me unmoved. I like turns of phrase that surprise me, a la Beth Kephart or Cath Crowley, but if you’ve read your fair share of lit-er-uh-chur, you’re going to realize that you’ve seen all the similes and metaphors here before.
I wanted AMELIA ANNE IS DEAD AND GONE to be emotionally and literarily earth-shattering, but it wasn’t for me. However, I can bet there’s an avid audience for this book. For those who prefer their YA lit darker and without supernatural delusions of luv, check this out.
Nova Ren Suma
Cover discussion: The muted, desaturated colors match the mood of this book.
Dutton Juvenile / July 5, 2012 / Hardcover / 304pp. / $17.99
Copy received for review from publisher.