By Kat Rosenfield
Available now from Dutton (Penguin)
Kat Rosenfield's debut novel AMELIA ANNE IS DEAD AND GONE is lyrical and haunting. Small-town girl Rebecca has plans for her last summer before leaving for college, but on graduation night her boyfriend cruelly dumps her and Amelia Anne dies anonymously on the side of the road. The two events happen less than a mile and an hour apart, although neither girl was aware of the other.
Rosenfield does an excellent job of evoking the small-town atmosphere. In Bridgeton, everybody knows everybody and anyone who is an outsider is regarded with some degree of suspicion. The murder of a girl who no one can identify rocks the town. It's a violation of the gossip mill that nobody knows anything about what happened. Any possible information spreads fast and viciously, the people eager to avenge this disruption of their peace.
And, in that shocking morning after, Becca's boyfriend calls her for support. I loved her reaction. "I don't understand why you're calling me (18, ARC)." He betrayed her trust and hurt he in a very intimate manner, and she's not going to forget or forgive that easily. But they tentatively continue their relationship, the day Becca leaves for college looming over their heads. James has no intention of leaving Bridgeton, no matter how much he loves Becca. The inevitable doom of the relationship is a familiar thing that many readers can empathize with.
Every few chapters there is a scene from Amelia Anne's point of view, recounting the events of her final day. She left home with her boyfriend Luke, eager with her own post-graduation future. She's bold, apologetically sexual, and unwilling to compromise her dreams for her boyfriend's. It's heartbreaking to read those scenes when you know she isn't going to make it home alive.
AMELIA ANNE IS DEAD AND GONE reminded me somewhat of Ian McEwan's ATONEMENT. Like Briony, Becca is a smart girl making assumptions based on what she sees and hears, but she's hampered by her own expectations. And I'll stop my comparison there before it gets too revealing.
Rosenfield's debut exhibits an assured voice and style, although there are some flaws. It's sometimes difficult to follow the timeline. An older Becca tells the story of what happened in those months after Amelia Anne's death, but she sometimes flashes back to before Amelia Anne's death without warning. But I enjoyed AMELIA ANNE IS DEAD AND GONE in all its brutality.