When Riley and Amelia transfer to Ashbury High School, they immediately capture everybody's attention and become two of the most popular students. Theirs is, however, not the only mystery of Ashbury High – between all the schoolwork, secret crushes and upcoming HSC (High School Certificate) exams arise the rumours of a ghost that haunts the hallways.
About a month or two ago, I took a short break from epic fantasy – after I read a book and a half of Malazan, I really needed something different, something a bit lighter in style and topic. Around that time, I also noticed Ana's review of Dreaming of Amelia (called The Ghosts of Ashbury High in the US), and decided to give it a try.
At first, I found Dreaming of Amelia very intriguing – the many POV's (Riley, Emily, Lydia, Toby …) are presented to us via an intertextual narrative that uses essays, e-mail correspondence, meeting minutes … to convey the story. It creates the impression that the reader is discovering the story through someone's research on the events that are described and also creates a very plausible high-school atmosphere.
By the time you get to know the characters better, however, the effect of the narrative wears off and the novel gets a bit annoying. I could relate to neither of the characters - Lyda is a spoiled girl with detached parents, Riley thinks that he and Amelia are superior to other students because neither of them comes from a rich family, Emily is a drama queen who likes to throw 'big' words around her essays and is unable to spell words such as 'annihilate', and Toby's essays are mostly telling the story of an Irish convict named Tom Kincaid who lived in New South Wales in early 19th century. This last narrative is actually very interesting, more so than the others, but it does nothing to keep the reader's attention on the main plot, which mostly revolves about how popular Riley and Amelia are and how they excel at everything they do and a ghost that just might be real but probably isn't.
I'm not really sure why I pressed on, but I'm glad that I did. Both the characters and the plot develop after the initial standstill – Em gets a grip on herself and proves that she's more than just a silly girl, Riley and Amelia get friendlier, the secret of the ghost is solved … I found it very nice how all the side plots (Ashbury ghost, Tom the convict) found their epilogue as well as got tied to the main plot. I'm not used to endings where all the loose ends are tied up, but it was really nice to see one of those for a change; it gives the reader a nice feeling of completion at seeing everything wrap up so nicely.
Dreaming of Amelia is not one of those YA books that appeal to readers of all ages; it's clearly aimed at a younger audience. This gave me some problems as I didn't really care about the characters or their (mostly very typical) adolescent problems. I can still say, however, that Dreaming of Amelia was just what I needed - a sweet, undemanding read to pass my time. I just wish I discovered it earlier – I bet my 14 year old self would love it.
Just deleted >9000 of spam posts. Fun fact: the spambots seem to be drawn to my review of James Enge's Blood of Ambrose :D At least the blog is clean now ^^
Sunday, November 7, 2010