Author: Kat Rosenfield
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Release: July 5th, 2012
Interest: 2012 Debut Author / Contemporary
Summary (From Goodreads): An arresting un-coming-of-age story, from a breathtaking talent.
Becca has always longed to break free from her small, backwater hometown. But the discovery of an unidentified dead girl on the side of a dirt road sends the town–and Becca–into a tailspin. Unable to make sense of the violence of the outside world creeping into her backyard, Becca finds herself retreating inward, paralyzed from moving forward for the first time in her life.
Short chapters detailing the last days of Amelia Anne Richardson’s life are intercut with Becca’s own summer as the parallel stories of two young women struggling with self-identity and relationships on the edge twist the reader closer and closer to the truth about Amelia’s death.
I love a good mystery, especially when it’s a richly written contemporary mystery. Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone has a lot going for it, but it also has a few flaws as well.
Books with more than one point of view almost always win me over and pique my interest. There’s so much to gain from the story when we can read and learn from more than one character. Kat Rosenfield provided us mainly with Becca’s point of view, but she also gave us Amelia Anne’s point of view hours before her death. What made this added perspective even more interesting is how much Amelia Anne’s life paralleled Becca’s. The pacing for this worked well also since we have it every two or three chapters. It’s just enough to make us want more from her story and to see how it connects to Becca’s.
Something that begs to be mentioned is the setting of Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone. Bridgeton is a very small town with a tight-knit community. The idea of either being an outsider or an insider is abundantly stressed in the story. Becca feels like an outsider in her own town and has dreams of leaving, but once that opportunity grows nearer it becomes that much scarier. Amelia Anne is an outsider which makes her murder in their town all the more shocking. No one knows who she is, where she’s from, or who killed her. The murder throws all of Bridgeton into a frenzy of gossip and pointing fingers; Becca even starts to feel more attached to her town. I had a hard time believing how much this murder affected everyone, but I’m also not from a small town. Regardless, the setting really becomes a major character in the story. The stress and tension grows to the point that I could feel it while reading.
As most reviewers have said, Kat Rosenfield has written a lush, beautiful debut novel. The story is engrossing and vivid and kept me reading page after page. My big qualm with Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone is how jumpy the plot is. Becca very often flashes back to earlier in the year without any warning. She also narrates different characters’ stories. These jumps in time happen without any kind of visual cue. The reader would benefit from a page break or a different font style when Becca switches time periods and focus. Overall, I don’t know if I really liked Becca all that much as a character. She’s incredibly naive, understandably so, and it’s believable but it grew on my nerves. I wanted her to ask questions. I found myself relating more to Amelia and enjoying her character so much more. She’s years ahead of Becca and knows how to go after what she wants. She’s confident and standing up for herself. As I was reading I kept hoping that Becca will grow to be like Amelia in those ways.
Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone is a great choice if you enjoy contemporary literary YA. It’s a fast-paced, gritty debut that I can see becoming quite popular in my classroom. I’ll feel comfortable recommending this to some of my freshmen, but I don’t think I’d hand this over to middle school students. The story isn’t overly mature, but it does deal with mature situations and language that might be a little advanced for middle school students.