The night before Amelia Anne Richardson bled her life away on a parched dirt road outside of town, I bled out my dignity in the back of a pickup truck under a star-pricked sky.*
So begins Kat Rosenfield's Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone, a book that has recently inspired much gushing in the blogosphere. And for good reason, happily! For the most part, the writing is so lovely—flowery, moody, rhythmic and lyrical—that I’d like to just transcribe a list of examples and send you off to read the book for yourself.
Read the last Bookshelves of Doom on Mandy Hubbard's 'Dangerous Boy.'
Alas, I’m realizing now that I dog-eared so many pages and marked so many quotes that it would make more sense for me to reread the book than try to find my favorites. So, unless you walk away from your computer and head to your book source of choice, you’re stuck with me for now.
Becca just graduated as her high school salutatorian. At the end of this summer, she’s leaving her small, stifling town—and her dropout boyfriend—behind, and headed to college, and from there, to law school. That’s the plan. That’s always been the plan.
But the discovery of a dead girl on the side of the road—a dead girl no one in this everyone-knows-everyone-else’s-business town even recognizes—changes everything. It’s not a sudden change. People don’t immediately start looking at each other sideways. After all, her death probably has nothing to do with the locals. She had expensive highlights in her hair after all. It’s probably to do with the summer people.
Rosenfield alternates between Becca’s memories of that summer and the story of Amelia’s last few days to ultimately reveal the truth, and in so doing, shows the parallels between these two very different girls and their experiences. As I said, the writing is wonderful—the flowery aspects occasionally go a little overboard—and Becca’s voice usually successfully walks the line between Capital-L Literary and Small-Town Frank. If she’d been a male narrator, I rather suspect I’d have heard Richard Dreyfuss’ voice as I read.
The specialness isn’t just in Rosenfield’s description, turns of phrase or how she captures the slow, heavy feel of summer. It’s about how she makes every single action, interaction, sometimes even the briefest of moments...feel like a turning point. There’s a constant sense of dread, inevitability and change. There’s a lot of crossover potential here—it reads more like adult crime fiction than YA**—I won’t be at all surprised to see Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone cross-shelved in the Adult Mystery section. And I certainly won’t be surprised to see it get nominated for an Edgar.
Actually, I’d be surprised if it isn’t.
*I pulled that quote from an advanced copy, so it’s subject to change.
**The only YA readalike I’m coming up with is Lauren Myracle’s Shine.
Let's be honest. If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy is most likely being tragically unproductive due to the shiny lure of Pinterest.