Buckle up kids, this is going to be a long review.

Reconstructing Amelia - Kimberly McCreight

Let me start by saying that I didn't hate this book.  Overall, it was entertaining and a fast read, however, it pushed some of my buttons in MAJOR ways, so a review that didn't mention these flaws wouldn't be entirely honest.


1.TYPOS! This book was published by HarperCollins, a major publishing house, and written by an attorney who graduated cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania Law School (according to the book jacket).  It has been read, re-read and edited by dozens of people, all of whom make their livings based on the written word.  That, to me, makes is completely unacceptable that words are misused in the final manuscript. A few examples: on page 18 "A tattoo on his forearm - a cross - peaked out from under the sleeve of his sweatshirt."  If the writer intended to convey that the tattoo had a peak or was pointed, (per Merriam-Webster here) she has used the correct word.  If, however, she intended to convey that the main character caught a glimpse of the tattoo, which became visible from its place of concealment under the sleeve, the word she was looking for was "peeked" (here).  Page 311 - "Then it came to me, Ben's whacky leave-school-and-hide-out-in-Europe plan."  Is Ben's plan physically hitting Amelia, or is it a crazy, silly idea? (whack vs. wacky).  At another point in the story (I can't find the exact page, but it's near the end) one character tells another to get some rest and not "overdue it" when she's upset and ill.  Is she delayed or late in some way, or is the author trying to communicate that the character shouldn't continue to act in excess? (overdue vs. overdo).  Is it really too much to ask that professionally published books use the correct word? Was everyone who read and edited this book absent the day we learned about homonyms in second grade or have we all become so lazy that all we do is hit "spell check" and call it a day?


2. The premise of the book, a parent trying to reconstruct the last few months of her daughter's life after she starts getting mysterious texts saying that her daughter didn't commit suicide, was interesting.  The execution, however, followed several other books I've read recently way too closely and felt formulaic.  Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects and Jodi Picoult's The Pact each feature a teenage girl with a secret.  Amelia's secret in this book is that she's gay.  Amma's secret in Sharp Objects is that she's been murdering other kids in her hometown.  Emily's secret in The Pact is that she was briefly fondled by a stranger in a restaurant bathroom.  The Pact and William Landay's Defending Jacob both deal with parents questioning how well they really know their children; in fact, The Pact starts from a nearly identical premise: a teenage girl commits suicide, leaving her baffled parents to try and figure out how they missed the signs.


3. Kate.  Oh Kate.  Kate Baron isn't so much a character as she is a giant pile of stereotypes.  She's a high-powered corporate lawyer who spends way too much time at work.  She's a single mom who's marinating in her own guilt over not spending enough time with her daughter.  She's a needy adult child of emotionally distant parents, who always picks the wrong men and as a result, gets pregnant in law school.  She's an overprotective mom who makes up a fairy tale to avoid telling Amelia who her dad is (it's her married boss, Jeremy - they had a one night stand when Kate was a summer associate.  Kate doesn't even know he's Amelia's dad, despite the fact that Jeremy and Amelia share a rare genetic disorder, because they only hooked up once.  Apparently Kate didn't remember the repeated warnings from sex ed that it only takes one time to get pregnant.) despite being absent from the rest of her daughter's life.  She's so close to her daughter and they have such a good relationship, but she has no clue that Amelia is telling her she needs her.  She's a New Yorker who eats take out every night, but put a $4,000 stove in her house because she thought that would somehow make up for the fact that she's never home.  She's an overwrought mom, who despite having the support and assistance of a very patient and kind homicide detective, feels the need to question witnesses on her own and interfere with the investigation, despite taking pride in how "logical" she is.  Ugh.


4. Finally, this book felt like any of the moms that didn't stay at home with their kids full time were terrible people.  Kate is utterly clueless because she's too busy being a big-shot lawyer.  Dylan's mom is obsessed with pushing her into her footsteps as an actress.  Zadie's mom is obsessed with getting revenge on Kate, who she blames for the end of her affair with Jeremy 17 years ago (Surprise! He's Zadie's dad too!), and victimizes Amelia to get even with Kate and Jeremy indirectly.  The only mom who comes out well in the book is Kate's next door neighbor, who stays at home with her kids.  She's perfect.  The way that these women were framed felt like an extension of the "mommy wars" and really bugged me, since the sub-textual message seemed to be that women can't have a career that they love and still be a good parent, let alone be a SINGLE woman with a career that she loves and still be a good parent.  Like I said before, it wasn't a bad book. It just hit several of my pet peeves.