Not Buying It

To enjoy Kat Rosenfield’s young-adult novel Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone, you have to buy into the conceit that a pretty, blonde, recent college grad can disappear for two months without anyone raising an eyebrow. Apparently Amelia Anne, the corpse of the title, had the kind of friends and family who could go more than two months without hearing a peep from her and not be concerned.

I didn’t buy it, and that was only the first problem with this book.

The novel opens with teenage Becca, whose boyfriend, James, is pulling out both figuratively and literally. As the two finish having sex on the night of her high school graduation, James claims they’re finished. She is, obviously, sent into a spiral of teen-angst breakup depression.

The next morning, the tiny town of Bridgeton is rocked when the body of a young woman is found on the side of the road. Nobody knows who she is, where she came from, or who killed her. The murder sets the town abuzz with gossip and suspicion and countless, endless rumors.

The murder takes Becca’s mind off her heartbreak. A little. She’s also got college in the fall to worry about.

The chapters alternate between telling Becca’s story as it unwinds over the summer after Amelia’s body is found, and Amelia’s story in the months, days, and hours leading up to her murder. This alternating point of view sounds good in theory, but doesn’t quite work out in practice. The point of view is kind of slippery and loosey-goosey. Becca sometimes takes on the POV of the entire town, a sort of omniscient, third person plural. Amelia’s POV starts with a close-third, following Amelia, and then flips into her boyfriend Luke’s POV for a few paragraphs, and then flops back to her. While this wasn’t too confusing, it was jarring and annoying.

As far as characters go, spending time with Amelia was far preferable because she had an actual personality. She was a feisty business major who discovered in her final semester of college she had a passion for theater, and even though her domineering boyfriend wasn’t thrilled, she was going to follow that dream.

Becca, on the other hand, was a dud. Allegedly, she was a driven young women keen on getting out of the claustrophobic small town that had a knack for sucking people in for life. I only know this because Becca told me. As far as I could discern she didn’t have any actual goals other than getting out of town. She had no hobbies or passions other than pining for and worrying about her boyfriend, James, the one she stupidly got back together with the day after he so cruelly dumped her.

If it hadn’t been for Christa’s glowing review coupled with John Green’s (author of The Fault in Our Stars and half of Will Grayson, Will Grayson two books I adored) praise, I’d have abandoned this one faster than you can dump a dead body on the side of the road.

I persevered through endless flowery descriptions of small town life and the way information flows through them. I struggled through the side story about a young boy, a summer vacationer who died because he jumped into the lake from the wrong side of the bridge, what this had to do with Becca and Amelia’s story, I do not know. I kept going waiting for the scariness, the paragraphs that made Christa’s “legs go numb in fear.” I never got there and here’s why. In the climactic, scary scene, as Becca’s about to discover what happened to the dead girl this happened:

His voice was drowned in noise as the sky suddenly lit overhead. A jagged scar of electric white opened across the sky, accompanied at the same time by a terrifying, earsplitting crack of thunder.

Oh yes, the scary scene actually takes place during a thunderstorm. The only thunderstorm they have all summer. The cliche. . . I just. . . yeah. It’s really easy to pile on a book you don’t like. I could go on, but instead I’ll stop and just say, I did not like this book. At all.

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