Rare is the person who doesn’t have a painful memory of the teen years to share when the topic comes up in conversation. One place where many folks feel safe talking about the teen years is a book group.
Expect lively conversation from readers of this pair of books, Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight and Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character of Empathy by Emily Bazelon.
Bullying among teens has always been a compelling topic and has garnered extra attention in the news with the added element of social media.
Debut novelist McCreight brings this subject into the daily life of a family in Reconstructing Amelia. Kate Baron is a single mother with a teenage daughter and a demanding career as a attorney in a high-powered New York law firm. Amelia attends a prestigious private school until the day she is suspended for cheating. Dashing from a crucial meeting with a challenging client, Kate arrives at the school in time to learn her daughter’s body has been found in the school’s courtyard, an apparent suicide after leaping from the school’s roof.
In the midst of her grief, Kate receives an anonymous text “Amelia didn’t jump”. This sets Kate off on an investigation into her daughter’s private life that has her sifting through text messages, Facebook posts, and emails, only to learn that the Amelia Kate knew is not the same Amelia her classmates knew.
McCreight has constructed a tightly plotted suspense story with sympathetic realistic characters. Readers will be right along with Kate as she uncovers facets of her daughter’s life and personality she never knew existed and will be stunned at the lives teens live in the hallways of their school and the wallways of their Facebook pages.
Match this novel with Bazelon’s first book, Sticks and Stones. The senior editor at Slate has written a compelling narrative of the history of bullying using accessible, thought provoking prose. She frames much of her research and reporting using the stories of three typical American teens who were all involved in bullying situations.
There’s so much to discuss with both of these books, it may take a while before readers get around to sharing their own memories of the horrors of teendom.