Young Adult Education

Small Town Secrets: ‘Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone' by Kat Rosenfield

Over the past half a year or so of Young Adult Education, we’ve covered a lot together. Friendships, break ups, cultural identity and (of course) romance. One thing we haven’t hit on yet? Murder. That’s about to change, because today’s pick, Kat Rosenfield’s Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone, is a dark, moody murder mystery that I predict you’re going to love.

Becca, her high school’s salutatorian, wants nothing more than to get far, far away from her hometown. She doesn’t even look at colleges within 200 miles of Bridgeton. But when her boyfriend, James,  unceremoniously breaks up with her and a dead body shows up on the side of a country road, everything changes. Now, all Becca can think about is the dead girl. Who was she? Where was she from? And, most importantly, who killed her?

We also hear the story of Amelia, the girl who becomes both dead and gone, as per the title. Her story progresses along with Becca’s until, finally, we learn what exactly happened to Amelia that left her on the side of the road in Bridgeton. Along the way, we also learn all about the small town secrets that hide out just below the surface, only visible to the people who know they’re there.

It isn’t just the mysterious whodunit angle that makes this novel stand out. Kat Rosenfield is an amazing writer, and she describes the small town conundrum perfectly:

“It wasn’t just about getting away. It was about not coming back. It wasn’t just the size and sensibility of this place that made it unbearable, but its pull–the weird magnetism that could sap your ambition, clip your wings, leave you inert and fascinated and sinking  ever deeper into the choking quicksand of small-town life. I’d seen it happen, how hard it was to get out. Every year, one or two kids would visit from college for a long October weekend and simply never leave. They came home, cocooned themselves in the familiar radius of the town limits, and never broke free again. Years later, you’d see them working in the kitchen of the pizza place, or sitting at the bar in the East Bank Tavern. Shoulders hunched, jaw set, skin slack. And in the waning light of their eyes, the barest sensation that once upon a time, they’d been somewhere else…or maybe it was only a dream.”

Wow, right? Passages like that demand to be underlined (or highlighted on your Kindle. Whatever your style!). Anyone who’s from a small town knows the twin feelings of comfort and claustrophobia that can come with living around people you’ve known your whole life. Even as Becca tries to grab hold of her college dream, she has a hard time seeing herself anywhere but Bridgeton. After all, Bridgeton managed to claim Amelia, a girl who was only passing through and is now stuck there forever.

Much like how Becca can’t stop obsessing over Amelia, I can’t stop thinking about Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone. If you like murder mysteries, beautiful writing, small towns and dark YA, check it out!

Some Highlights:
-YA superstar John Green (who, apparently, we all love) endorses Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone. So if this post hasn’t convinced you to check it out, maybe his rave review will. I mean, sure, I’d like to think I have as much literary cache as John Green, but let’s get real.

-That cover! It’s perfectly moody and dark and beautiful, right?

-This is a great read for this particularly hot summer (as I write this, it’s 101 degrees), as the book takes place during a very dry heat wave. The stifling heat mirrors the closed-in feeling of living in Bridgeton.

-Kat Rosenfield has a lovely Tumblr as well. Check it out!

As always, I love to hear your suggestions about what books you’d like to see in Young Adult Education! E-mail me at, find me on Twitter @KerryAnn or leave a comment!

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