Of ghosts and shadows … and looking from different angles

dreaming of ameliaTITLE =Dreaming of Amelia

AUTHOR =Jaclyn Moriarty

GENRE =Gothic, Romance, Growing up

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 11, 12

Another wonderful novel from the acclaimed author, Jaclyn Moriarty. The setting of this novel will be familiar to readers of Jaclyn’s other novels (eg Finding Cassie Crazy, Feeling Sorry for Celia, The Betrayal of Bindy Mackenzie) for once again we are visiting Ashbury High. And some of our favourite characters (Lydia and Emily) are once again key elements in the story. But there are new characters too – namely Toby and the enigmatic couplo, Riley and Amelia.

As with her previous Ashbury novels, structurally this novel is intriguing: this time instead of letters and emails, exams essays, assessment stories and school created blogs forward the story. However, the tone of this novel is different: laugh out loud humour has been replaced by a gothic story of ghosts and shadows, there is tension and foreboding as well – although, when two of the key writers of the story are Emily and Lydia, rest assured that there is also a lovely touch of humour as well. In fact, the drama , parties and occasional mild hysteria of surviving the final year of high school provides a brilliant (and often quite funny) backdrop for the central action of the story.

The structure of this novel may provide challenges for some readers, as the focus constantly changes but the reward is that the story unfolds in tantalizing ways: each writer tells their version of the truth about events, but it is the details they leave out (and others fill in) that build the story as a whole for the readers. Just as the opening exam question asks the students to write about first impressions, we as readers are shown that the first impressions we may have developed are not necessarily well founded. There are some delightful twists and turns in the story, the central mystery behind Rily and Amelia will also be revealed, and there are some delightful emails, blog entries to keep readers entranced. And Emily once again has the chance to spread her “legal” wings as the case against Riley and Amelia is mounted towards the end of the novel.

A more demanding read than some YA lit – particularly given its length (at over 500 pages) – but it is well worth the effort: not just to resolve the central ghostly mysteries at the heart of the novel, but also as a thoughtful commentary on truth and reality, on love and friendship and the importance of family … and of surviving high school and taking on the challenge of adulthood!

A wonderfully thought provoking and engaging read especially for more mature readers.

Why not check out Jaclyn Moriarty’s website – and learn more about her books (and how they were retitled for overseas markets).

Highly Recommended (dma) *****