Dreaming of Amelia by Jaclyn Moriarty
|Dreaming of Amelia by Jaclyn Moriarty|
|Reviewer: Robert James|
|Summary: A brilliant story combined with superb narration from multiple viewpoints makes this one of the best teen novels of the past few years.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: April 2010|
|Publisher: Macmillan's Children's Books|
New scholarship students Riley and Amelia are so mysterious that everyone at Ashbury High School is talking about them. Add to that the creepy happenings around school, and Lydia Jaackson-Oberman's PC actually typing its own messages to her, and it seems pretty appropriate that the Higher School Certificate question these teens are answering for much of the book is on Gothic Fiction.
Yes, that's right – Lydia, Riley, Emily Thompson and Toby Mazzerati narrate much of the first and third parts of this book through answering an exam question on exploring the dynamics of first impressions, drawing on their knowledge of Gothic fiction. Interspersed throughout, we have blog entries for homework assignments, the contents of a Scholarship File, poetry from the mysterious Shadowgirl, and various letters, while the middle section consists entirely of the four students (and Lydia's PC) responding to an assignment Write the story of term 2 as a ghost story.
Moriarty has always been a thrillingly imaginative author, but even by her standards, this is breathtaking, with so many beautiful touches. (As a teacher myself, I thought the ending to Emily's exam question perfectly captured the way certain students desperately try to boost their marks.) For readers who haven't come across her books before, the previous three are also set in Ashbury, an Australian school. Feeling Sorry For Celia is the story of a girl who runs away, and Finding Cassie Crazy is the tale of a letter exchange between three girls from Ashbury and three boys from the neighbouring Brookfield school. Both showed a variety of viewpoints, and both were utterly amazing. There was a slight cross-over of characters between them, but very little.
In Moriarty's third book, Becoming Bindy Mackenzie, we saw the return of Liz Clarry from 'Celia' and Emily Thompson from 'Carrie' as fairly major characters towards the end of the novel – but for me, that book was a letdown, with the vast majority being told by Bindy, a bossy, self-centred prodigy who's far from being my favourite of the author's characters.
So, I had high hopes for this one after the first two books, marred only slightly by the third one, and was really pleased to see Lydia and Emily from 'Cassie' return. In that book, their characters were both superb – Lydia, the somewhat spoilt daughter of absentee parents and Emily, the drama queen with the overactive imagination. If anything, they're even more engaging here, while the mysterious newcomer Riley and reliable Toby are also fantastic. Also, much of Toby's exam answer is the story of Tom Kincaid, deported from Ireland for stealing his eleventh sheep, as remembered from letters Toby read for his history project. The Tom Kincaid parts were some of my favourites right the way through the book – but they take on even more meaning when they get tied in to the rest of the story with an absolutely astonishing ending.
The ending – which takes place via transcripts of a school hearing after a terrible event, and various e-mails between participants – is phenomenal. All of the previous events of the novel become clearer, and the mystery of Amelia and Riley is finally revealed – but is it too late? Will the outcome for Amelia and Riley be a triumph or a tragedy? And has there been anything supernatural going on?
Sorry, you'll have to read it yourself to find out. But please, please do! The only possible reason a lover of teen fiction could have for missing this one is if they haven't tried Moriarty's earlier novels, in which case I'd suggest it's well worth reading at least Finding Cassie Crazy beforehand due to the development of Lydia and Emily as characters during that book. Moriarty continues to shine as one of the most imaginative and authentic voices in teen fiction today and I can see myself rereading this novel even more than I did 'Cassie'.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
Further reading suggestion: For older readers and adults, I'd recommend another excellent book, also told from multiple viewpoints, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. At the younger end of the age scale, while it's far less ambitious and aimed at a younger age group than 'Amelia', I think many people who enjoy Jaclyn Moriarty would also like Star Crossed: Aries Rising by Bonnie Hearn Hill.
You can read more book reviews or buy Dreaming of Amelia by Jaclyn Moriarty at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Dreaming of Amelia by Jaclyn Moriarty at Amazon.com.
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