Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone
by Kat Rosenfield
Original Publication Date: July 5, 2012
Length: 304 pages
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Obtained Via: Bought
View at the Traffic light:
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.
One girl lost forever to this stagnant place was enough.
It’s a shame that Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone isn’t more popular, because it’s a really wonderful–and dark–book.
Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone is sort of atypical as far as YA goes. It’s very literary, and I could easily see it being marketed towards adults rather than to a YA audience. Not because I don’t think YA can be great literature(because it can!), but because there’s a distance in the narrative that’s pretty uncommon for YA, even literary YA, and I see that more often in adult fiction. Here’s an example of what I mean by the distance:
In the days, months, years that followed, I would lie awake and drive myself crazy, wondering what might have been. I would imagine what things might look like now, if I had more time to think. If I had worked my shift, all busy hands and racing mind, and allowed passing time to illuminate the possibility that I had made a terrible mistake.
Becca’s narration might be first person past tense, but as you can see in the example above, it still doesn’t feel very immediate to the action. I really like that. Some readers might not, because Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone is much slower paced than you might expect from a murder mystery. In fact, I would hesitate to even describe it as a murder mystery because while there is a murder and yes, the details of it are a mystery, Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone focuses much more on the small town aspects and how the summer between graduation and college changes Becca.
There’s so much that Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone packs in. Growing up in a small town, I absolutely loved the depiction of small town life. There are a lot of books set in similar towns, and it’s a difficult balance to get right, I think, because people tend to either idealize small towns or paint them as these places full of groupthink only and negatively insular. Becca wants to break out of her small town, but there are still moments where Rosenfield really captures why some people are drawn to small towns. Becca and I, well, that’s not the draw for us, but we both understand that reasoning.
A place to live, and die, knowing you were truly home.
Since Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone is focused on Becca and her summer, another large part of that is her relationship with James. This was such an unique exploration of a relationship. Perhaps because of the narrative distance I mentioned above, Becca and James’ relationship feels so different from what I’m used to reading. It’s not written in a way that pulls you into their story, but yet it still manages to capture that feeling of first love, even when you know it’s slipping away. There was something just really bittersweet and beautiful about it, and really that’s a feeling that last all throughout Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone.
I feel I should note that, despite going on about how beautiful the writing in this book is, it’s also incredibly bleak. There are some gruesome images and some absolutely terrible things happen, even after the initial murder is discovered. These all contributed to the heavy, sticky atmosphere of the book, though, and never felt out of place.
I enjoyed Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone so much that it probably could have been a 5 star read for me if it were not for one thing: the switching between 1st person and 3rd person point of views. Becca’s chapters are in 1st person POV, while the few where Amelia Anne is the focus are all written in 3rd person POV. I’m not the kind of reader who likes to write anything off–there are some people who have very particular preferences about point of view and tense, whereas I tend to be willing to give anything a go. In theory, this is true for 1st person and 3rd person POV switching, but in actuality I have never read a book where this happens and I liked it or thought it contributed to the story, and Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone is not an exception. It made an otherwise flawless book feel rough and unpolished in the transition.
On the whole, though, I really enjoyed this book and will definitely be reading Rosenfield’s future books. I’d definitely recommend it, especially if you like Nova Ren Suma’s books–the writing styles are distinct, but similar.
After reading, I’m really surprised Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone isn’t more popular. I suppose the slow pacing might have something to do with that, but I REALLY enjoyed this book and would highly recommend giving it a try. 4/5 cupcakes.