Title: Amelia Unabridged
Author: Ashley Schumacher
Published: February 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Rating: 5 stars
Cover: Love it
Eighteen-year-old Amelia Griffin is obsessed with the famous Orman Chronicles, written by the young and reclusive prodigy N. E. Endsley. They’re the books that brought her and her best friend Jenna together after Amelia’s father left and her family imploded. So when Amelia and Jenna get the opportunity to attend a book festival with Endsley in attendance, Amelia is ecstatic. It’s the perfect way to start off their last summer before college.
In a heartbeat, everything goes horribly wrong. When Jenna gets a chance to meet the author and Amelia doesn’t, the two have a blowout fight like they’ve never experienced. And before Amelia has a chance to mend things, Jenna is killed in a freak car accident. Grief-stricken, and without her best friend to guide her, Amelia questions everything she had planned for the future.
When a mysterious, rare edition of the Orman Chronicles arrives, Amelia is convinced that it somehow came from Jenna. Tracking the book to an obscure but enchanting bookstore in Michigan, Amelia is shocked to find herself face-to-face with the enigmatic and handsome N. E. Endsley himself, the reason for Amelia’s and Jenna’s flight and perhaps the clue to what Jenna wanted to tell her all along. Ashley Schumacher’s devastating and beautiful debut, Amelia Unabridged, is about finding hope and strength within yourself, and maybe, just maybe, falling in love while you do it.
“I’m crying, silent tears that don’t leave me gasping for breath or needing to rip books in half but that taste almost sweet in their saltiness. When did emotions start having emotions of their own, and how do I make it stop?” (p. 174).
Thank you Ashley Schumacher and Wednesday Books for a free eARC of Amelia Unabridged in exchange for an honest review. I have been sitting with this story ever since I read it almost in it’s entirety on February 16th. This story filled me to the brim and I’ve been struggling to find the words to capture the experience reading it was for me. As soon as I finished it, I texted my husband that I was utterly enchanted and I so deeply wanted to own a physical copy of it–which he was so kind to tell me to buy it, even though he truly cannot understand why I want to own books I’ve already read. That’s real love, my friends.
The book opens up on Amelia’s less than stellar home life (her father leaving for a younger woman, her mother in complete shock and depression) and ushers her into a friendship that helped her discover her value. Jenna and her family welcome Amelia in as a surrogate family member, and Amelia spends her high school years wanting for nothing and cherishing the worlds found in the pages of her books with a wonderful friend. Suddenly Amelia’s world is shattered when she gets the phone call that Jenna has died in an accident. The last thing they had said to each other was a fight. Jenna had their lives together all mapped out, how was Amelia supposed to do this alone? After a mysterious and rare copy of the girls’ favorite book arrives for her, Amelia goes on a journey to find out if Jenna was behind it. On the way, she discovers a whole new cast of quirky book lovers like her who welcome her in and give her space to discover who she is on her own.
Once Amelia makes it to Michigan, it’s clear that she’s battling so many things internally. She doesn’t know whether she should continue to pursue the life Jenna had planned for her, which means she would have to allow Jenna’s parents to pay for the college she’d otherwise be unable to afford in order to study for a career she’s unsure she wants, all while keeping up appearances as Jenna’s replacement almost in a family that’s not biologically hers. But what is there for her if she doesn’t do this? And how can she possibly let down her best friend and her family by changing the plan after Jenna’s death? How can she continue reading books when the very person who taught her to love them is gone? How can she be a complete person without the person that helped shape her?
There are so many different forms of grief throughout several characters, which I feel like makes everything more relatable and tangible. Amelia’s grief and anxiety throughout the book is attached to images of whales she pictures in her head that bring her peace. I thought this was such a beautiful way of writing Amelia’s thought processes as a creative individual who spent so much of her life in other worlds. After she meets Endsley, she uses these pictures in her head to relate to his anxiety.
Everything about this story is just so wonderfully done. The cozy acceptance of an environment for book lovers, the sweet and very quirky friendships Amelia discovers in Michigan, and the tragically beautiful relationship she builds with Endsley. There’s even a wonderful dog who’s always in everyone’s space. I truly felt this was such a perfect illustration of true friendship being more than being there for each other in the convenience, but being an unwavering force in the inconvenience and uncertainty.
Schumacher’s writing is poetic and enchanting right from the beginning. Truly one of a kind. It was so difficult to put down or tear myself away for even the smallest thing because I didn’t want to leave this wonderful place she painted for me. I felt like I was there, on this journey of self discovery with Amelia, rooting for her, crying with her, and rejoicing with her. One thing that really stuck out to me about Schumacher’s writing is that she so beautifully crafted a world of book lovers without name dropping and shoving as many references as she could fit in there. All of the book references were so gently entwined into the story that it was more like a treasure hunt to see if I could figure out the reference instead of being pulled out of the story with a name drop. I don’t think I’m explaining it well, but this is something I struggle with in books because I often find name dropping so inorganic. Schumacher mastered this.
After all this rambling, I still feel like I only touched the surface of how wonderful this book is. And to think it’s only Schumacher’s debut? Sign me up for every book she comes out with ever, please and thank you? I will be fervently recommending this book to anyone and everyone possible.