Reconstructing Amelia Summary

Kimberly McCreight

Reconstructing Amelia

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Reconstructing Amelia Summary

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Reconstructing Amelia is Kimberly McCreight’s debut novel. Published in 2013, the novel has recently been optioned for a Hollywood film. The story is told from three points of view: Amelia Baron, who is fifteen, her single mother, Kate, and an anonymous blog. The book is a psychological thriller, as Kate tries to solve the mystery behind Amelia’s death.

Kate Baron is an attorney and a single mother. The novel begins with Kate in an important meeting at her law firm. The meeting is interrupted by a phone call from her daughter’s prestigious private high school, Grace Hall. The school informs Kate that Amelia has been suspended, effective immediately, after plagiarizing a paper on Virginia Woolf. Kate promises she will be there as soon as possible, but the stress of work gets in the way. She arrives slightly later than planned, to find ambulances and police surrounding the school. Panicked, Kate is told that Amelia has committed suicide, jumping from the roof. The school cites over-achiever Amelia’s despondence at getting caught cheating as a reason for her suicide.

Kate tries to cope after the tragedy; after taking four weeks off, she returns to work. She spent the four weeks off reliving Amelia’s last few days and wondering if she could have done something to prevent her daughter’s suicide. Once she returns to work, Kate is stunned by an anonymous text. The text claims that Amelia’s death was not a suicide. Kate is upset by this news, even slightly angry. Her boss, Jeremy, sends her phone to the IT department, to see if it can uncover who texted her.

Kate returns home and begins to go through Amelia’s things to see if there is any evidence to support or disprove her suicide. With help from her friend Seth, Kate finds a multitude of handwritten notes that show Amelia was bullied at school. Seth wonders if the suicide could be true due to these notes. Kate finds a paper on Virginia Woolf on Amelia’s computer different from the plagiarized paper, it is original.

Kate decides to take her newly found information to the police, where she meets with Lew. Lew thinks that a lot remains to be seen from the investigation. Kate and Lew begin to examine Amelia’s activities before her death. Through their investigation and Amelia’s narration, the truth is revealed. Amelia had been asked to join a secret society at her school, called the Magpies. To join the Magpies, Amelia had to complete a few degrading tasks, such as posting pictures of herself in her underwear on the internet. Amelia keeps the Magpies a secret from everyone, including her best friend, Sylvia. Sylvia and Amelia had made a promise to one another that they would only join the Magpies together.

Prior to Amelia’s initiation into the Magpies, she told Sylvia everything about her life. Sylvia is aware of an online friendship Amelia has made with a gay teenager named Ben. But Amelia must keep quiet over new developments. Amelia does not tell Sylvia about her first romantic relationship with a girl named Dylan, also a member of the Magpies. She also does not tell Sylvia about the abuse she receives from the head of the Magpies, Zadie. Amelia has also discovered that Ian, Sylvia’s boyfriend, has been cheating on Sylvia. At Zadie’s insistence, Amelia does not tell Sylvia about Ian.

The abuse from Zadie escalates when she discovers Dylan and Amelia’s relationship. She decides to kick Amelia out of the Magpies, and encourages her fellow Magpies to harass Amelia. Zadie warns Amelia that if she tells anyone about the harassment, then the Magpies will turn their abuse on Sylvia. Amelia cannot take the abuse any longer and confides in the school therapist. The therapist tells her to confide in Sylvia.

Sylvia reacts angrily to Amelia at first. Amelia lied to her. But she is most upset about Ian’s cheating and ultimately supports her friend. The two pen a letter to Dylan, wanting to know why she went along with the Magpies. Unfortunately, Zadie is on the receiving end of the letter and publishes it, outing Amelia as a lesbian. Due to Amelia’s public humiliation, she is sent to the office, where her headmaster attempts to get information out of her regarding the Magpies. Amelia refuses to talk, because she is afraid the Magpies will take out their retribution on Dylan.

Kate also discovers that Ben, the teenager Amelia was corresponding with digitally, is her boss, Jeremy. Jeremy believes that Amelia is the product of a one-night-stand he and Kate had. He was contacting Amelia as Ben to get to know his daughter. Amelia and Jeremy share similar distinctive eye coloring. It is confirmed that Jeremy is Amelia’s father.

Kate believes that Zadie pushed Amelia off the roof. Kate decides to confront Zadie at her home, where she also speaks to her mother, Adele. Zadie was not responsible for Amelia’s death, but Kate discovers other interesting information. Zadie was the product of an affair between Adele and Jeremy. Adele knew about Amelia and forced Zadie to recruit Amelia for the Magpies.

Finally, the truth is revealed. Lew discovers the texts Kate received were from Sylvia. The Magpies had told Sylvia that Ian, her boyfriend, was the one who took the provocative pictures of Amelia, heavily hinting at an affair between them, which was false. Sylvia confronted Amelia on the roof, pushing her, and she accidentally fell off the roof.

The novel concludes with Kate coming to terms with her grief. Zadie gets sent away to a school for delinquent girls. The Magpies and other secret societies are banned from the school.