Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Release date: 2nd April 2010 UK
Genre: Contemporary Teen Life / Gothic / Ghost Stories
Target audience: 12+
Summary from Amazon:
Amelia and Riley have transferred to Ashbury for their final year of school, and everyone is completely obsessed with them. Glamorous, talented and totally devoted to one another, the two of them drift through school in their own world. But there's more to the couple than meets the eye - they have secrets. And some of them are dangerous to share. As Riley starts to lose his grip on Amelia, the repercussions affect everyone around them.
A spellbinding story about ghosts, secrets, madness, passion, locked doors, femme fatales, and that terrifying moment in the final year of high school when you realise that the future’s coming to get you.
Dreaming of Amelia is the kookiest book I have ever read and that can only be a good thing. It is the story of a whole cast of characters and not particularly about any single one of them. Yes, the title has Amelia's name but she is not exactly the main character. She is the mystery to be solved if you like. The story revolves around the lives of teens who attend Ashbury High School, a private school in New South Wales, Australia. Specifically, they live in the town of Castle Hill. The format of this book is unique in my reading experience because most of it is told through the students' HSC English exam on the theme of Gothic fiction. In addition to reading their examination entries, you also get minutes from teachers meetings, teachers emails, student blog posts and the odd letter. The sum of which is one hilarious, sometimes touching, sometimes frigetning story which plays with the theme of Gothic fiction. Jaclyn Moriarty is in every sense a literary genius who had me literally cackling with laughter.
Emily, Cassie and Lydia are in their final year and the book follows them through each term using the exam paper format and English assignments as a way to communicate their stories. Emily is a complete drama queen who loves to exaggerate and embodies what I like to think of as the hyperbole of adolesence. Her voice is funny in the extreme. I could read her Gothic stories all day long. Lydia is much more controlled and I guess is the leader of the group. She has a secret that is eating away at her and causing her to keep an emotional distance from Seb (her ex boyfriend) and sometimes even her friends. Cassie does not play a huge role other than to comment upon Emily's blog and her obsession: Riley and Amelia.
Riley and Amelia are new students to Ashbury High. They both get awarded scholarship places but why they get them is a mystery and something that weaves its way through the book. Riley is at times sinister and in fitting with the Gothic, he can make your blood run cold. Riley's exam paper is full of contempt for the students around him. It is also full of his love for Amelia. The two of them seem to glide through school causing a wave of hysteria. Even the teachers are obsessed with them, they all seem to want to compete to get the great achievements out of them.
The plot is full of Gothic elements. There is Emily's ghost who haunts the Art Rooms. There is Amelia - the femme fatale (I guess). There is an atmosphere of dark mystery surrounding Amelia and Riley. There are whispers, creaks, groans and screams. There are secrets, mysteries, insanity and envy. At every turn I was left wondering what was real and what was not. It was like being in a hall of mirrors. All the characters are in the centre of the room. All the mirrors show their reflections. They are all distorted. As the reader you are at once, each and every mirror and each and every character. It sounds bizarre and it is. But is is also gripping, amusing, entertaining and emotional. At the heart of the novel there is a dark and sinister truth that is painfully sad.
Overall, Dreaming of Amelia is one quirky, eccentric and hilarious book. I am simply in love with it. The way the story is told is inspiring. Jaclyn Moriarty takes two seemingly unrelated genres: contemporary high school teen life and gothic fiction. She mashes them up and creates what can only be described as a story of epic proportions and awesomeness. I now wish to read every book she has ever written because such is the magnificence of Dreaming of Amelia.
Thank you to Macmillan Children's Books for sending me the book for review.