“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.” The very first sentence of Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone tells a surprising amount about the unfolding story and its narrator Becca. Newly graduated from high school and looking to escape small-town life, Becca finds her plans change once she hears of a stranger’s murder. Instead of packing for college, she gets bogged down in the flow of local gossip about Amelia’s death. Vacillating between worry and a kind of internal deadness, she grows concerned that her boyfriend James may be covering for a suspect in the case. Alternating chapters reveal uncanny parallels between Amelia and Becca’s lives, and we watch as one life approaches its end and another is altered forever.
This is author Kat Rosenfield’s first novel, and she’s to be commended for taking risks with Amelia Anne that aren’t common in young adult fiction. The violence in this book is brutal and intimate, but never voyeuristic—don’t be surprised if you physically recoil yet can’t stop reading. Some of Becca’s chapters seem almost to be observed from the air above the town, such as a lengthy meditation about how small-town legends persist and evolve. These musings are dreamy and slow as molasses on the page, yet build and add to the suspense of the mystery. By the end, two people have died as a result of passion and stupidity, and there are no easy explanations for either crime. Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone blends elegant writing and brutal behavior into a sharp and haunting novel.