It seems that every day there is something in the news about bullying. The ramifications can affect not only the victim, but also families and friends. Schools find it to be problematic on many levels and work hard to inform students and staff to alert the right people when such behavior occurs. But still, we hear stories and are faced with heartbreaking results when bullying pushes someone to the end.
When Kate is contacted to pick up her daughter from school because she has been suspended for “cheating,” she is totally amazed. Amelia is a very bright, studious and serious student who would never cheat. Kate knows there is something more behind the story, and as she drives to Grace Hall, she formulates the discussion she and Amelia will have.
"RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA pulls you in from the first page and leaves you shaken with the tragedy of it all. This is a book that should be read by parents, teachers and students alike and needs to be in every high school and public library."
Grace Hall is an expensive prep high school. Kate is a single mom, a lawyer who works long, hard hours to bring them both the best kind of life. It has not been easy raising a child by herself, and though she’s not at home as much as she’d like, she knows she has raised a wonderful daughter and that they are as close as any mother and daughter can be. All of this falls apart when Kate arrives at the school to find an ambulance and fire trucks waiting. Her daughter has committed suicide.
Why? This is what any parent would ask. Kate, in a haze of grief and shock, cannot fathom that Amelia --- bright, beautiful, and full of life --- would kill herself. An investigation reveals that Amelia was so upset over the “cheating” incident, and a few other seemingly insignificant occurrences, that she couldn’t cope. None of this makes sense to Kate, and even though the investigation is now closed, she aches with questions and wants to know more. Then one day, an anonymous text comes that says “Amelia didn’t jump.” Thus begins the unfolding, the “reconstruction” of a daughter Kate did not really know.
Is it possible that Amelia was murdered? A new inquiry reveals some angry, ugly truths about the school, the staff and the student activities. It becomes obvious that some awful bullying has been going on from a club Amelia belonged to called the Maggies --- a group led by a troubled and vicious girl named Zadie. It’s also revealed that, though the school was aware of this club and disapproved of it, they did nothing to stop the inappropriate behaviors. In Kate’s search for her daughter’s possible killer, all of Amelia’s texts and emails are made available. Along with nasty name-calling, Kate is shocked and shaken to the core when she finds partially nude pictures of her daughter. She is also taken aback by a little vicious online newsletter called gRaCeFULLY, which seems to delight in revealing the most intimate, often embarrassing details about both students and faculty. The gradual unfolding, layer after layer, shows Kate that Amelia had many secrets she never shared with her. And the real truths begin to painfully unfold.
Kate has her own secrets and has spent all of Amelia’s life protecting her about the true identity of her real father. With all good intentions, she would share the truth one day, but it is too late. Secrets are now being revealed from everyone, and everywhere “if only” is a refrain that runs as a theme. Would things have ended differently? Kate begins realizing some of her own mistakes and that her busy life kept her from being there for Amelia. Many things should have been differently in their lives, and many things might have been done if only she had been aware. If only she had “seen,” but she really had not been looking.
Debut novelist Kimberly McCreight carefully strips away the facades of her characters as they try to hide and squirm from the truth. RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA pulls you in from the first page and leaves you shaken with the tragedy of it all. This is a book that should be read by parents, teachers and students alike and needs to be in every high school and public library.
Reviewed by Sally M. Tibbetts on April 5, 2013