Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone
By Kat Rosenfield
July 5, 2012
Ages 14 and up
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 is one of the darkest YA titles I have read in some time. As dark and gritty in its narration and as emotionally disturbing as works such as THIS IS NOT A TEST by Courtney Summers or SHINE by Lauren Myracle, I will proudly display this book alongside those titles. While reading, I couldn’t help but think of the new genre that seems to be popping up these days, you know, that unclear one called “New Adult”? Not quite YA and not quite adult. If I could place any title within that category, Kat Rosenfield’s debut would be such a title.
“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.”
Although the above quote is only one small sample from the book’s opening pages, AMELIA ANNE IS DEAD AND GONE is full to the brim with similar, both lyrical and weighty, descriptions that add to the overall moodiness of the story. The writing is both beautiful and disturbing. Hints of optimism and hope are sewn into these passages, but only as an “accessory” among much more cynical themes and situations. This story is certainly not child’s play, nor for the faint of heart.
What I loved most about the story is the descriptive narration that jumps between two characters and multiple timelines. A brilliant decision, since the lives of the two characters, Amelia and Rebecca, parallel each other in many ways in the days depicted within the novel. They are both young women who wish to leave their hometowns in order to explore new and better possibilities. For both girls, this new venture would mean leaving a young man behind. Neither girl is aware of the dangers that await them.
At times, I found myself caught of guard when a particular event would trigger a memory within one of the characters, catapulting us through time mid-chapter to an earlier event that ultimately adds more depth to the current situation. Some readers may be turned off by this narrative technique, but I felt that it actually added to the overall quality of the book. Every now and then, Kat would pause her story in order to emphasize the importance of the people involved, a particular theme or the setting. While it did damper the pacing of the novel at times, her technique is still to be applauded.
It wasn’t until the final third of the book that found myself flipping the pages in tense anticipation of Amelia’s inevitable demise. I thought I knew what was going to happen, but was turned for a loop when the truth is revealed. The truth is, even in a small town where you may be surrounded by familiarity, you never really know whether the real dangers lurk within or without.
I hope that Kat decides to write more within this genre. I, for one, will eagerly await what other insightful ideas she has in store.