Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dreaming of Amelia - Jaclyn Moriarty

In preparation for the Melbourne Writers Festival, I'm going to review the works relevant to each event I'll be attending. First up is the newest title by one of my favourite authors:


The Facts
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Publication Date: November, 2009
Length: 526 pages

The Fiction
From Goodreads: 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. It is 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.

I was very excited to read Dreaming of Amelia as I've been a huge fan of Moriarty's earlier novels, especially Finding Cassie Crazy (published internationally as The Year of Secret Assignments), and was particularly looking forward to revisiting Lydia, Emily and Cassie.

What I enjoyed most about Dreaming of Amelia is the way Moriarty plays with the elements of gothic fiction and incorporates them into a contemporary Australian setting. Being a bit of an English Lit nerd at uni, I picked up on connections to Jane Eyre and Mysteries of Udolpho. I also loved, as I do with all of Moriarty's work is her writing style itself and the way she crafts quite complex narratives using a variety of written forms (Dreaming of Amelia features HSC essays, memos, letters, poetry and blog entries).

Whilst I did find Dreaming of Amelia harder to get into (I started reading the novel months ago and put it down at some point and was obviously distracted by other books) and didn't have an immediate connection with it like I felt with Feeling Sorry for Celia and Finding Cassie Crazy. Once I got about 100 pages in though, I felt like it picked up speed and from then on, was unable to put it down. As much as I enjoyed being re-immersed in the friendship of the three young women, what I loved about this novel is the introduction of Riley and Amelia. Their plotline is probably the most complicated and Moriarty carefully teases us with tidbits about these two mysterious (and supposedly highly-dangerous) teenagers, so that their story falls into perfectly into place in the novel's final third.

Overall, I found Dreaming of Amelia to be a clever and intriguing read. Like The Betrayal of Bindy McKenzie, some of the plotlines border on the side of very far-fetched , but the characters are so likeable and engaging, that even the most over-the-top narratives work. It is quite long for contemporary YA (and I must admit, I skimmed some of the Toby/Tom sections - but only because I was so hungry for more on Riley and Amelia), but it's ending is worth the reader's patience.


Jaclyn Moriarty will be appearing at the Melbourne Writers Festival on Tuesday, August 31st for The Writing Life and Growing Pains.

5 comments:

Nomes said...

i love this book a lot - but not sure if it is the perfect entry point for new-to-moriarty readers. I've read it twice now and agree that once all the pieces come together it's very addictive :)

good review (i find jaclyn very hard to review for some reason?)

Romy @ Lost.in.Stories said...

I've never read anything by Jaclyn Moriarty before, I think I need to.

Hope you enjoy the writers festival. I'm going too, not long now.

Chachic said...

I've been hearing a lot of good things about Jaclyn Moriarty's books. I asked the local bookstore if they had this one (I asked for Ghosts of Ashbury High) and it's not available. I may need to order it from abroad.

Girl Friday said...

Nomes - I agree, I think first time Moriarty readers would be better with Finding Cassie Crazy or Feeling Sorry For Celia, which have a less complicated structure. And yes, was so hard to review!

Romy - Would definitely recommend her writing! And yay for MWF!

Chachic - Her writing is awesome, would recommend you check out Finding Cassie Crazy (also published as The Year of Secret Assignments) as it's a little bit older so you might have more luck tracking it down :)

Chachic said...

What a coincidence! I just picked up The Year of Secret Assignments this afternoon from the local bookstore. Glad to know that it's a good start to Jaclyn Moriarty's books.

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