by Amy Schumacher
Publication: February 16, 2021
**I was provided a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**
The summer before they go to college, best friends Jenna and Amelia attend a book festival so they can meet author N.E. Endsley, whose books have significantly impacted Amelia’s life. Unfortunately, Jenna gets to meet him while Amelia doesn’t, leading to a fight, and Amelia is reluctant to forgive her despite Jenna heading off to Ireland shortly after. Before Amelia gets a chance to mend their friendship, Jenna is killed. Now, she needs to figure out how to move forward without the person who has always been by her side.
First drawn in by the beautiful cover, I wasn’t entirely sure if I wanted to read Amelia Unabridged after reading the description. I didn’t want another book leaving a melancholic imprint but I couldn’t help myself. Amelia Unabridged is so many wonderful things. It’s at once beautiful, tragic, and magical. It didn’t leave the sense of longing I expected it to, so it hit me a bit differently but still in a good way.
It’s a story about dealing with grief but where I thought it would be about looking for closure, as in life, closure was just one small piece. The book instead focuses on trying to figure out what’s next. Jenna has always been the one to pave the way for them. The way, ever since becoming best friends, has always been together. Jenna’s death pushes Amelia to contemplate moving forward, alone. Even after her death, Jenna remains a catalyst when the unexpected book arrives, and Amelia finds herself in Michigan. Amelia’s courage to stand on her own is tested throughout the book.
The book is also very much a YA romance novel. This is likely what helped to soften the blow of Jenna’s death for me. As Amelia is grappling with her grief, she makes connections to someone else trying to do the same; only it’s been more difficult for him. Together they try to find the answer to the question of whether moving on also means losing connection to those who have passed on.
Generally, I liked the flowery language. It’s what made the book and Michigan feel so magical. However, there were times I could get lost or distracted trying to connect all the different pieces of a single scene. Amelia would be looking at or doing something but in her head, she would also be seeing her whales. While I might not fully understand Amelia’s whales, I have a loose theory about them. I liked her whales and sometimes they were the most vivid images. I swear I could see them floating, shimmering through the town when Amelia saw them as well.
The book moves at a contemplative pace. I never felt rushed, nor was I constantly trying to guess or think ahead about what was coming next. It was one of those rare books where I was present in the moment. Everything held so much meaning. I was pushed to read every word and feel the emotions running through Amelia as she grappled with Jenna’s death and tried to find the courage to define her future.
It’s a book for book lovers. Readers will appreciate the many references to other stories scattered throughout the novel. The bookstore in Michigan Amelia finds and gets to stay at is out of a book lover’s dream. It had me on Google searching for future travel destinations that would have similar accommodations.
Overall, Amelia was a satisfying read. While I shed tears in a few places, it didn’t leave quite the impact I thought it would, but I was still left in awe. Again, it’s a beautifully written book. I’m buying it for my shelf.
Really Quickly on Amelia’s Whales:
In case this is more SPOILERY than I think, you might want to pass on this. I apologize.
Amelia’s constant mention of whales brings this magical, dream-like state to the book. Whales are the largest creatures, yet limited in population in such a vast place. They’re generally social creatures but not all are. When Amelia says the whales used to be orcas but have changed to become blue whales, it’s a significant indication of her current state. Orcas are social, and normally travel in groups but blue whales are quite solitary. Losing Jenna, the one person who was truly her “family,” leads Amelia to be the lone person left. But maybe Amelia isn’t the only blue whale, maybe her love interest is a blue whale too, and like calls to like. Whales have different frequencies and the calls of whales can be heard across distances so, naturally, they can hear one another. More importantly, they can help each other overcome their grief.