August 19, 2012

Review: Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield

Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield
Published: 2012, Dutton Books
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Source: Library book

Something horrible, something that usually stayed safely outside and away from the quiet comfort of Bridgeton, had moved into town and would never, ever leave.  

It's hard to collect my thoughts into a meaningful review of Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone. I read it in almost one sitting, which for me is not conducive to the best recall or understanding of a book. But besides that, there's something so elusive about this book, something that makes it difficult for me to fully formulate my thoughts on this novel. It kept my attention as I read the book, but, like the summer during which this story takes place, what seems so important and lasting at the time eventually gives way to fall, and life moves on.

Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone tells the story of two young women at major crossroads in their lives who become irrevocably linked after a catastrophe. On this one night, Becca has become a high school graduate with honors. She has only the summer left before she will move out of her small town and onto bigger and better things. One more summer with her boyfriend James, a high school dropout. But then that night he breaks up with her. And then Becca finds out the next day that only a few hundred feet away from where she was with James an unknown girl has been murdered. As Becca struggles with so many new uncertainties, she comes to a stalemate, no longer sure what she wants out of her life. The untold story of the dead girl haunts both Becca and the rest of the inhabitants of her town as they try to discover what happened.

There are a lot of imaginative aspects of Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone, especially the various narrative voices. In this novel Rosenfield relies on three narrators: Becca, the modern-day recent high school graduate who can't wait to escape her small town for college, Amelia, the young college graduate with so much hope for the future, only to be murdered less than a day later, and the small town where Becca lives and Amelia was murdered. The narrators are all very distinct: Becca's story is told in first person, Amelia's in third person limited, and the town's in third person omniscient. There's a lot that Rosenfield has to juggle with her multiple narrators, and I think she does it pretty well. At times it was frustrating to keep reading these changes in perspective, but it was very satisfying to finally see them start to come together and I did enjoy reading about the climactic day where all of the pieces are linked and the mystery surrounding Amelia's death is solved. I had suspicions about what had happened, but nothing could have prepared me for those revelations.

My main issue stemmed from the fact that I simply couldn't relate to any of the characters. Of course there were aspects of Becca and Amelia that I understood very much the desire to forge your own path, the stifling feeling of having others suggest how to live your life. They're pretty universal themes and those are portrayed well enough. But as characters neither of them truly earned my sympathy or grabbed my interest. I think that Rosenfield concentrates more on linking Becca and Amelia together than on developing each separately to her fullest extent. And of course I'm not able to relate to the town as a character — but then again I wasn't expecting to there. Without feeling a connection to any of the major characters, I could not feel super invested in the book as a whole.

Instead of the intense character focus that I usually want out of my books, Rosenfield writes a very atmospheric and contemplative novel. The novel is much more concerned with the bigger picture and overarching themes of people experiencing a crossroads in their lives, as well as painting a fascinating portrait of small-town life. More so than through character studies, Rosenfield demonstrates the beauty, wonder, despair, and fragility that being at such a place in life can invoke through poetic prose and imagery. I just wish that her beautiful words could have been used to help me better relate to the characters themselves.

If beautiful, evocative, haunting writing is your thing and you like seeing multiple storylines come together to form a bigger picture then you may enjoy reading this book. But if, like me, you care more about strong characterization, then this may not be the book for you.
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Amanda loves few things better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a book. She frequently stays up far too late, telling herself she just needs to finish one more page. When she's not wrapped up in the stories of others, Amanda works as a children's librarian in a public library.


  1. I couldn't relate to any of the characters either! Wait, no, I could relate to James but not to Becca who I guess is who I should be relating too. Anyways, I didn't like it at all.

    I'm waiting for Grave Mercy to arrive. I see you are currently reading.

    I'm from the GoodReads group and I'm following you now. Here is my link if you want to check out my blog :-)

    1. That is very true. I could relate to James somewhat, so a pity he's only a secondary character. I'm glad I'm not the only one who felt this way about the book.

      I love Grave Mercy so far, hope you find it enjoyable as well!

      Aw and thanks for taking the time to look at my blog. I'll have to check yours out.

  2. It sounds like this is a pass for me then. But your review! It was wonderful! No really. I appreciate the thought that obviously went into putting your ideas together here. And it does sound like a cool book... But maybe I'll just go reread In Cold Blood instead?

    -Mary (My Sisters Bookshelf)

    1. Aw thank you so much, Mary! I really appreciate knowing that people enjoyed my reviews! :) I think the book had more potential that it unfortunately didn't deliver on. But that happens.


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