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:
Author: Jaclyn MoriartyPublisher: Pan Macmillan
Publication Date: November, 2009
Length: 526 pages
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.
The Writing Life and Growing Pains.