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.
Although I've been busy studying for exams and arranging to move into my new flat, I have had time to read a couple of excellent new books, including Jaclyn Moriarty's latest teen novel. I was lucky enough to get sent a proof copy from my lovely friend Anne, who wanted a young person's opinion for a review she was writing. Here are my thoughts.
I've been an avid fan of Jaclyn Moriarty since I read her first novel, Feeling Sorry for Celia, when I was thirteen. I've always liked the epistolary style of writing and Moriarty is one of the few authors who can pull this off successfully, in my opinion. Dreaming of Amelia is a particularly unique version of this style of story-telling in that the majority of it is written in the form of an English exam. Although this is interspersed with emails, blog posts and letters, for the most part of the story we follow four characters as they sit their final English exam - Lydia, Emily, Toby and Riley. Lydia and Emily first appeared in Moriarty's second novel, Finding Cassie Crazy, and both played cameos in Becoming Bindy Mackenzie. I was particularly pleased to read about Lydia again as she is definitely one of Moriarty's quirkiest characters. Emily was, as ever, hilarious to read about, particularly as she is constantly mixing up words when she writes. Her exam paper was wonderfully over-dramatic. Toby also featured in Becoming Bindy Mackenzie, although it took me a while to remember where I'd heard of him before, and it was great to see his character developing. He was especially interesting to read about as he turned his exam paper into a story about a historical figure that he'd been researching, which later added to the "ghost" element of the story - I won't tell you exactly what I mean by that as I don't want to spoil it, but it was a nice surprise when the two stories overlapped in the end. Riley is one of the new characters in this novel and I never really felt like I got to know him properly. However, I have a feeling that was Moriarty's intention - he and Amelia are meant to be mysterious, which explains why all the students at Ashbury are so fixated by them.
In a sense, Riley and Amelia seemed to be a plot device to get the story rolling. Although they were at the centre of the novel, there were several other small sub-plots occurring simultaneously. Lydia wants her ex-boyfriend back, Toby is worried about his divorced father and Emily is convinced that there is a ghost haunting the Art building. At times I found it hard to believe that two new students could really cause so much fuss, but then I remembered when two incredibly attractive, blonde German exchange students came to my school for a year - yep, everyone was obsessed.
The ghost aspect of the novel intrigued me. I'm not exactly a fan of fantasy or ghost stories and I wasn't sure how Moriarty was going to successfully pull of a ghost story in a modern setting without making it horribly cheesy. What actually panned out impressed me - the idea that each of us has a metaphorical "ghost" haunting us. It wasn't until near the end of the story that I realised that this was what Moriarty was trying to say and I was quite pleased with this conclusion. Of course, there is an actual "ghost" in the story (well, I believe that there was) but it managed to fit into the plot without seeming too out of place or unbelievable.
All in all, I'm very pleased with Moriarty's latest novel. If I have to be totally honest, I think it's impossible for me not to like any of her books. Moriarty is one of the few writers from my teen years that I still love as an adult - her characters are insanely quirky yet realistic, she utilises a different epistolary style for each novel and each of her books surrounds some sort of mystery. I honestly wish that my high school years were as exciting as those that I've read about at Ashbury. Another 10/10 from Jaclyn Moriarty!