Amelia Anne is dead but she isn’t gone quite yet. Becca is ready to get away. Get away from her small town and everyone that knows her, but the sudden violent death of a stranger keeps Becca stuck as her life seems to spiral out of control over a long summer. She soon learns that she has more in common with a dead stranger than anyone she thinks she knows and loves, and that the people around her know more about the stranger’s death than they’re letting on.
This book is a weird hybrid between small town coming-of-age tale, gritty murder mystery, and poetic look at the similarities and differences between love, sex, and death. That may seem like an odd combination, and at times it does veer perilously close to melodrama, the end result is an original and powerful look at the perilous period between adolescence and adulthood. The book occasionally gives chapters from Amelia Anne’s point of view, teasing the reader with knowledge the main character doesn’t have. This also highlights how much Amelia and Becca have in common and how (and this is sort of a major theme of the book) people that never even meet in life can be connected by death and how violence has ripple effects no one could ever anticipate. The slow reveal of what REALLY happened to Amelia really builds the tension and having the mystery develop from two points of view makes the story richer and more entertaining.
Honestly, I had a hard time liking Becca at first because she’s going through a hard time and doesn’t handle it all that well at first. Also, I immediately liked Amelia Anne and that made the comparison sort of unflattering, but Amelia is several years older than Becca and as I read on I started to see why the death of a total stranger was having such a bizarre effect on Becca. It’s to the author’s credit that she never spells it directly out for the reader and allows you to figure it out for yourself what lies beneath the surface. The prose is truly the shining star of the book. Rosenfield makes the ordinary seem vital (which is crucial in a book that takes its time to build to any climax) and is able to slowly unfold a moment with her words. I think Ellen Hopkins fans will appreciate this book (even though it isn’t in verse it’s beautifully written words often feel like poetry), but it moves slower than some of her novels. It’s dark, sad, and offers no easy answers, but I think honest books about violence ought to be complex. A very good and very rewarding read that isn’t for everybody, but that will stay with everybody that reads it.
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