Dreaming of Amelia
(a.k.a. The Ghosts of Ashbury High)
by Jaclyn Moriarty
In the beginning, I loved this book. Then, I quickly started to hate it...by the end, it redeemed itself a little bit, but it wasn't enough. I normally finish Jaclyn Moriarty books with a smile on my face and a desperate desire to read another one, but this one...I finished it thinking I'm so glad it's over, because it was a chore and a half to get through.Summary: Amelia and Riley have transferred to Ashbury for their final year of school, and everyone is completely obsessed with them. Glamorous, talented and totally devoted to one another, the two of them drift through school in their own world. But there's more to the couple than meets the eye - they have secrets. And some of them are dangerous to share. As Riley starts to lose his grip on Amelia, the repercussions affect everyone around them.
The sad thing is, it still had all the things I loved about the other books in the series -- the excellent writing, the quirky, hilarious, loveable characters from the previous books, the interesting format... All of that was still very much present. The problem was that the book was far too long, way longer than it needed to be (my copy has 577 pages, although the font isn't tiny), and along with all those things I loved, it also had a lot of stuff I absolutely hated.
As for what I hated, I'm just going to list those:
- All of the historical crap. I went into this because I wanted a fun contemporary with characters I know and love from the previous books... I did not want to drag through many chapters about some made up Irish convict shipped to Australia (it nearly bored me to tears). If I wanted to read something historical, I'd have picked up a historical book. I hated everything about that part of this book.
- 90% of the ghost stuff. It was irritating most of the time, and again, I did not go into this wanting to read something supernatural. Some of it improved by the end, but then it had to throw in another twist that was just awful.
- Riley... I hated his character for a lot of the book. He is one of the parts that were sort of redeemed by the end, but that still didn't make it easy to read through page after page of him and Amelia being this big deal in the story (although, the writing in his chapters was the best). Which brings me to...
- Amelia... She is void of personality for the majority of the book. I guess the aim was to make her mysterious, but to me she was about as mysterious as a plank of wood. Her oddness came across as trying too hard to make her a unique snowflake which made her difficult to like (seeing her through Riley's eyes through a lot of the book did not help with this because he was obsessive and it never seemed justified -- it's like someone trying to convince you how amazing and beautiful a potato is or something). The end of her story was predictable (one twist) and annoying (another twist, which seemed like a clumsy attempt at making the ghost stuff relevant). By the end, we still barely know who she is (except for negatives) -- only things that have happened to her.
- Riley AND Amelia. Like, them as a couple. Again, trying too hard to be mysterious. Everyone gushing about how perfect and talented and mysterious they are was awful. I found it impossible to like them as a couple, neither were particularly likeable on their own and they were worse as a couple. I actually wanted them to break-up while I was reading. Characters who are described as being gorgeous and good at everything is obnoxious and on top of that they're manipulative and just... can you tell I really, really hated these characters and the way they were written?
- Worst part is, it did that thing that I hate an author doing. It's hard to explain, but you know how in Twilight Bella describes herself as being plain? But then every male character has a thing for her, girls are jealous of her, and then she tries to explain it away as just being because she's the new girl? This book did that, it had Riley and Amelia be good at everything then had them try to justify it, while still having every other character continually going on about how great they are.
- It felt like it tried to cram too much into its pages and the focus was rarely on the best bits. It got really too ridiculous at times.
I never thought I'd write a negative review of a Jaclyn Moriarty book, but I really struggled with this one and it was only stubbornness that kept me reading until I was finished. I'd rate it 2 stars out of 5. I'd still really recommend the rest of the books in the series though (they can be read on their own, I think), the rest are all 4 and 5 star reads to me.