Kate Baron’s daughter Amelia is dead. She fell off the roof of her tony private school in Brooklyn. At first the death is ruled a suicide; then Kate gets an anonymous text that claims it wasn’t a suicide at all. Though shocking to the already shattered Kate, she suspected that her daughter—bright, pretty and fairly well behaved—wouldn’t have thrown herself off a roof. What happened?

Kimberly McCreight’s Reconstructing Amelia is a page-turner, but it’s not only the mystery of how Amelia died that keeps readers going. The chapters alternate between Kate’s point of view and Amelia’s, which includes postings from her Facebook page, text messages to and from her friends—including a mysterious boy named Ben—and missives from her school’s nasty online gossip sheet. We find in Amelia a delightful but deeply needy young woman. Indeed, nearly everyone in the book is needy. Kate, whose own neediness led to her unplanned and unwelcome pregnancy with Amelia, needs to get to know the truth about her daughter. The other adults, many of whom betray Amelia in some way, need to keep up appearances or cover their tracks. The other kids, even the posse of mean girls who torment Amelia during the last weeks of her life, need to belong.

Speaking of kids, McCreight is one of those rare writers who gets teenagers with the sort of specificity and accuracy that can put an ex-teenager’s teeth on edge. She makes you remember the good and bad craziness of those years. She makes you ache for the harrowed single mother Kate, and she makes you want to put your arms around Amelia and tell her everything gets better. But then you realize Amelia is gone, and your heart hurts. Reconstructing Amelia will keep you hooked till the last page.

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