Sunday 15 August 2010

Book review : Dreaming of Amelia - Jaclyn Moriarty

I packed this book into my suitcase as I headed off on holiday with absolutely no idea what to expect so I came to it with no preconceived ideas or expectations at all. I was immediately sucked in and couldn't put it down although, now that I come to write the review, I'm at a loss as to where to begin !

Despite being billed as teen fiction, I loved it as an adult and I think a lot of the humour (such as big words being used wrongly) would go straight over the heads of the average young reader. The structure and sometimes tone of the novel vaguely reminded me of Matt Beaumont's e2 because it is totally made up of emails, blog posts and exam answers. This structure means that you jump right into the action with no long-winded narrative, which will appeal to teens, but it also adds an air of mystery and ambiguity as we know that everything we read is purely subjective and possibly fictional. The whole setting of the HSC exams took me back to my childhood years watching Home & Away in the 80's too, which is another reason it will appeal to nostalgic adult readers !

The novel examines the themes of teen life, romance, high jinks, parties and rich kids on the verge of adulthood but unlike many other coming-of-age teen reads, it also looks at kids from the wrong side of town and the hardships and abuse they have had to put up with during their childhoods. The author constantly brings up the themes of friendship, loyalty, suspicion, prejudice and deception which will make teens think about their own relationships and feelings.

The HSC paper framing the story asks the students to write a real personal experience of a ghost story using symbols from gothic fiction so the whole thing is paradoxical. What we get is a blend of fact and fiction or dreams and reality, a fusion of fantasy, imagination and misconceptions and also a blurring of past, present and future. We never know what is real and what isn't, either because it's totally made up for the exam or because someone has totally got the wrong end of the stick and believes a pack of lies. There is no all-seeing objective narrator to guide our way through the different narratives to the correct interpretation of the truth and reality but that just adds to the charm and fairytale-esque atmosphere of the novel.

It is a totally undefinable book but it's a cracking read, blending humour, sadness, hope, despair, reality, fiction, history - not to mention ghosts and many references to gothic fiction, as the exam paper requires ! It's certainly too good to be reserved for teens !

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £6.99

Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books; Proof edition (2 April 2010)
Language English
ISBN-10: 0330512889
ISBN-13: 978-0330512886

other reviews you might be interested in :

e² - Matt Beaumont

Book review : The Midnight Charter - David Whitley

Book Review - Waking Beauty by Julie Parrish

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