Amelia Anne Is Dead And Gone by Kat Rosenfield
This was the last book I read in 2012 and I feel like I have much to say about it. It has officially been added to my Favorite Books Of All Time list (which at this point really only exists in my head). This places it in the company of books like Sarah Water’s Tipping The Velvet, Christopher Rice’s A Density Of Souls, Melissa Marr’s Ink Exchange, and Annette Curtis Klause’s Blood And Chocolate. But Kat Rosenfield has done something else with this book as well. She’s placed herself on my Writer Crush list (also only existent in my head, perhaps I should fix this trend). This list seems to grower shorter the more I read, rather than longer. As I refine my taste and what I look for in a book, in writing, in myself even, this list grows shorter. And I’m happy to say Kat Rosenfield has found her way onto said list with her debut novel.
It’s not a light and fluffy book. As if you couldn’t tell from the title, right? There is a heavy theme of death throughout. Death in the form of murder, in the form of relationships and friendships, in the form of one’s understanding of the world they live in. I love mystery and suspense, but that wasn’t the focal point here. Becca and her struggle, juxtaposed alongside Amelia and hers, is the heart of this story. The struggle to either let yourself be buried in death or rise out of the ashes.
I have read reviews where people complain that Becca was whiny and the suspense was subdued and bitch bitch bitch whine whine whine this books isn’t how I wanted it to be.
I disagree with those people. Becca was 17, desperate to get out and yet feeling her life stagnate before her. And I could relate to that feeling on such an intense level. Because at her age, I was right there. She isn’t whiny. She’s processing the potential loss of a future she never questioned. The anxiety of all that can go wrong, of everything that has the ability to leave you lying on a highway, bleeding your life away. She was real. And I think people are unwilling to accept that. Her weakness was perhaps too real for some people to handle. She was not directly involved in this murder, didn’t know the girl or her circumstance, but she didn’t need to know in order to feel. And no one wants to admit that you can be affected by the outside world. That small town or not, death reflects on and claims us all. And sometimes, even at 17, that’s a large and looming thought, one you sometimes have to sit and wangst about.
Becca was real. I knew her. I both loved and hated her. Because Becca was me. Becca is me. If I were to look back on my life and tell you the story of it, you would see that as well. There is a sort of knowing in the prose, a maturity, that she’s reflecting on her life from a distant place. That’s where I found myself the most. In the knowing that whatever is back there, in your past, whatever ghosts you hide and whatever pain you endured, it’s behind you. And this quote pretty much defines me.
❝ I have learned that knowing where you’re going means remembering where you’ve been. I’m not afraid of what lurks behind me, or ahead.
Which will bring me to my next point. The writing.
I have also seen people complain about her writing. Too many adjectives is the biggest complaint. Followed by the absurd statement that she’s “trying too hard to be literary.” I’m sorry, what? These people should maybe keep the evidence that they enjoy paying upwards of $8 a book to gluttonously scarf up loads of crap to themselves. Personally, I find it gross that many authors appear to hardly try to perfect their craft at all. I would much rather indulge in the delicacy that is a well-written book. And this really was. The prose was nearly bloated, but it painted a picture. The writing was well thought out. There were a few places, here and there, where the grammar or the structure of a sentence made me pause and re-read for clarity. But there were far more instances where I paused and re-read to take in the beauty of it all. Such a heavy story, with such pretty writing. Allow me to demonstrate.
❝ I tried to make that fit–to reimagine last night as something less final, something other than an execution, something nebulous and misunderstandable that left us neither together nor apart. Not done, not undone.
It seemed impossible that something which had felt so brutal and decisive to me could feel to him like limbo.
But I wanted to believe him. I had trusted James, and in return, he had loved me, protected me, kept my secrets. In his eyes, even more than in mine, we were always solid.
Her writing makes me look at my own and wonder why… why in poetry and short flash fiction pieces I can sound beautiful and heartfelt, but when I try to write a novel I fall into Generic Writing Land. This feeling that someone’s work is wonderful and beautiful and mine sucks, it used to get me down. But not anymore. Now I look at this lovely writing and think… I can do that… all I have to do is actually try. And that’s why these arguments that Ms. Rosenfield tried too hard are ridiculous. She did not try too hard, she merely respected her craft and her own abilities and did not dumb things down or go about it the easy way.
I should have a troop of Hipsters to chime in right here about how she’s doing it right and everyone else is a sell out. But since I don’t, you’re stuck with me and my honesty. All these popular YA authors are likely more than capable of writing something lovely and worth reading for the prose alone, if they only tried, rather than churning out half-assed regurgitated crap at the speed of light. Writing isn’t supposed to be easy, it’s not supposed to pounding on a keyboard just to send off a decent story into the world… it’s supposed to be difficult and involve lots of alcohol and swearing and wondering who’s bright idea it was to write this effing story in the first place… followed by quality literature at the end of the painful process. Kat Rosenfield, you’re doing it right. And I will read anything you write as long as you try just as hard as you did with Amelia Anne.
This book was beautiful and painful. I thought about it while it was closed and savored it while it was open. I had borrowed it from the library, but I had to buy it, to have a copy of it within reach at all times. I know the novel is Kat Rosenfield’s, but the story is mine… she just doesn’t know it yet.