Book Review: Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield
Kat Rosenfield begins her debut novel, Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone, with a truly brutal breakup scene (the only breakup scene in recent memory that rivals it in cold-hearted WTF-ery is Charlie & Marnie’s breakup in Girls) between main character Becca and her boyfriend James. This brutality is nothing compared to what another woman, Amelia Anne Richardson, suffers that same night by the side of a nearby deserted country road.
Equal parts murder mystery and coming of age story, Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone is a novel of unflinching grit and beauty. It’s damn near impossible to look away from (and oh, you’ll want to—many times); Rosenfield’s gorgeous, haunting prose holds you captive.
The simultaneous pull to flee and to stay put, to complain about being stuck in place while digging your heels in harder, will resonate with any former small-towner, any suburber, and anyone who has felt at one point or another that they couldn’t unglue themselves from the present and move toward the future they’d envisioned for so long.
Rosenfield’s writing has the power to render destruction and violence with such beauty that it somehow becomes infused with even more wrongness. The characters, starring and tertiary, get no dignity or privacy in her hands. We feel every bone crunch, every violation of skin, every collapse of trust and love with humiliating clarity. She shows us just how frail humans can be—their bodies, their dreams, their plans.
As we spend the summer watching Becca’s future unravel in the face of the unsolved murder and her straggling control over her own life, we break the present storyline to change perspectives, going back in time to observe how Amelia went from a smiling girl on the cusp of a promising post-collegiate life to the irreparably broken body on the side of a Bridgeton road. The summer plows on relentlessly with little relief for Becca, the increasingly skittish townies, or the drought-plagued town. When at last the storm, literal and figurative, comes rolling into town, the truth is revealed in a shocking, unexpected twist.
This is truly a disturbing and powerful story, one I shuddered at frequently, but couldn’t put down.
Given the writing quality and the emotional wallop it packs, it’s no surprise that Amelia Anne is climbing the charts on my 2012 list, getting all up in Code Name Verity’s personal space (don’t worry, that book is totally plucky and tough; it has no problem saying “back OFF new book, you just got here!”).
PS – Don’t take my gushing word for it. John Green is also a fan. He says it’s like “if Sara Zarr and I had a really awesome baby.” Ok, but if we’re free to make YA author genetic cocktails, I’d have to throw in some Marcus Zusak in there too.