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.
Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone was a book that I was very much looking forward to reading. In fact, my anticipation was so great that I actually requested that my library purchase the book, instead of waiting for them to come across the title themselves, which can sometimes take ages. When the book was first released, I heard nothing but praise for it. The reviews promised atmospheric prose, gorgeous descriptions, and a slower-paced but still gripping plot. So it was with glee that I dove in to my copy, only to find that, instead of a book I’d love, I instead was entrenched in one that I … really did not.
In order to be a “good” book for me personally, there has to be something that calls you back to the story, and makes you want to pick up the book and lose yourself in its pages. That desire to lock yourself away from the world and read was sorely lacking throughout my experience with Amelia Anne. There really isn’t any way to sugar coat this; for me, this book was a slog from beginning to end. Couple that with overly-descriptive prose – sometimes taking several lines of text just to get to the end of a sentence – and I found myself doing something I very rarely do: skimming like crazy. I also really didn’t like the main character (one passage in particular when she was recalling her visit to her potential university really set my teeth on edge), which made the reading experience even more difficult because you’re stuck inside her head nearly the entire time. What was being marketed as a murder mystery-type book was really more of a character study into a small town girl about to make an enormous life change and leave everything she knew behind; perhaps, had I known that, I may have been a bit more guarded in my enthusiasm.
However, there were some things I did like. I loved how Becca and Amelia’s lives really mirrored each other and followed the same arc. I also liked the dual point of views; Amelia’s outlook on life was so very different from Becca’s, full of more sunshine and smiles and laughter, that it helped keep the book from being bogged down in Becca’s darkness and uncertainty. And I did like some of the flashbacks, which helped the reader understand how life in this particular small town worked and how it shaped the residents. However, there was TOO much of this in some cases, which really slowed the plot down and, again, made the book drag. I also really loved the atmospheric descriptions of the summer heat: the dryness, the shimmering pavement, the lethargy that takes hold of you when it’s so hot. And the descriptions of the scenery that surrounds the town of Bridgeton was likewise perfect. I could have used more of this and less of the metaphors that populated the rest of the book.
Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone is a quasi-mystery, in that you don’t know “whodunit” until you’re nearly at the end. But the path that the book takes in order to get to this ultimate climax was too winding and full of strange tangents for me to really enjoy the experience. While really shining in terms of the atmosphere, overall there was just too much description to make this a quick and engrossing read, at least for me. Obviously, your mileage may vary, as plenty of people have this on their “best of 2012” lists!