Dead and Gone
Literary fiction for the young adult audience is something of a rare beast. It can be found, as evidenced in the work of authors like Markus Zusak and Melina Marchetta, but I feel like a lot of YA novels fall either in the middle ground or fall firmly under the “genre fiction” heading. And before you think I’m snobbish, I really have no problem with genre fiction at all. I’m merely saying this the better to comment on the novelty of the literary aspects of Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone.
There is a certain feeling I get when I read “literature” (notice the quotes). It’s impossible to describe, but it has a lot to do with the mentality that goes behind writing a book like this, the way in which the story is told, and the way I notice author’s presence in the text. Kat Rosenfield’s writing, while beautiful, certainly takes—for lack of a better word—an external perspective on the story. That probably won’t work for a lot of readers, and in theory it shouldn’t work for me, either. But it does. The talent with which Rosenfield give the reader a detached perspective and still manages to convey a compelling story is amazing.
Like most novels of this sort, Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone is very character focused, and the main conflict is more protagonist vs. society than protagonist vs. tangible person/object. The stories of Becca and Amelia don’t fit together seamlessly—there is overlap, and at some points I did wonder the importance of knowing Amelia’s background. The convergence of the two plots is subtle, and the symbolism between the two young women isn’t immediately obvious.
There is also the immense beauty of Rosenfield’s prose to take into account. I like pretty prose as much as it’s possible for me to like it, but only when there’s depth and purpose behind the beautiful imagery. If I’m reading a book with flowery language just for the sake of flowery language, I probably won’t be impressed. But the way Kat Rosenfield writes is strong; it’s powerful and you definitely get the sense that she picked her words carefully. The haunting atmosphere of dusty small town was fully realized in a few sentences, and with only a single image here and there, the author managed to maintain it all the way through.
I was also, honestly, surprised by the maturity of both this novel’s plot and Rosenfield’s approach to writing. Murder is, obviously, a major component in this, and it wasn’t tiptoed around or euphemized. Beyond that, Becca and Amelia both had a straightforward, insightful approach to life that really goes beyond what you tend to find in teen fiction.
I admit, though, that I wasn’t the biggest fan of Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone at the time I was reading it. Because of the external viewpoint, the slow pace, and the difficult characters, it was hard to get invested. But toward the end, when you begin to realize what a genius Rosenfield is, and once you’ve done and you can think about this novel as a whole, that’s when it hits you—or at least when it hit me.
This novel shows a very adult approach to writing YA. I personally enjoyed this book a lot, and would recommend it to those who know they tend to like postmodern literature. I wouldn’t say Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone is the most accessible piece of writing I’ve ever read, but it’s brilliantly written and, overall, I found it to be quite impressive.