Posted in [fiction reviews]

[Fiction Review] “Amelia Unabridged” by Ashley Schumacher

Full Title: Amelia Unabridged
Author: Ashley Schumacher
Published: February 16, 2021 by Wednesday Books
Genres: Fiction, Young Adult, Contemporary Romance, Books About Books
Edition Details: 304 pages, hardcover
Source: ARC via NetGalley
Rating: {5/5 stars}

This is a spoiler-free review. No details will be shared from the storyline itself that aren’t available or inferred from the book jacket and online descriptions.

First Glance

I thought this book looked pretty while scrolling through NetGalley for my next set of ARC requests, and then I saw that it was published by Wednesday Books. So far, the books I’ve read from that publisher happen to be very poignant in their themes and the authors’ voices. Added to that, this is a book about books (or more specifically, a book about the author of some books). I’m a nerd for that!

Positive Bits

This is clearly a book about grief. The description tells us that Amelia’s best friend dies after an argument, leaving her hurt and lost. Grief is a deeply personal thing, but I think the author does an amazing job at showing us Amelia’s grief rather than telling us she’s grieving. To put that into perspective, I teared up within the first few chapters of the book and continued to ache and cry with Amelia throughout her story. When you look at the quotes I chose to share below, you can see pieces of how we’re handed the hurt of loss and being lost.

If we didn’t follow Amelia through her journey to find healing, the grief might’ve made this story unpalatable. Instead, we get to watch her rediscover herself without her best friend or the future they thought they had planned out together. The author wove healing into Amelia’s life without skipping the way grief returns unexpectedly, again and again. It was amazingly real (and better for it).

I happen to enjoy realistic stories, particularly when there’s romance and family involved. The way Amelia’s relationship exists with her own family, her best friend’s parents, and those she meets in her travels are all authentically flawed. People are allowed to fail. Some are even given opportunities to grow beyond their failings, only to fall short of personal growth. Maybe that’s not for everyone, but I appreciate the honest approach to relationship dynamics, especially as someone with similarly complicated relationships.

Less Enjoyable Bits

While I enjoyed the imagery and weight given to Amelia’s grief, I imagine this book will be a difficult read for anyone who’s recently experienced their own loss. Consider this your fair warning.

The characters are all very dynamic, whether they’re part of the main cast or not. However, the locations we visit with Amelia might as well be Anywhere, America. I had issues with remembering whether the nearby body of water was a lake, river, or ocean. I couldn’t remember the layout of a repeatedly visited building, other than one or two small details that I found quirky. Setting didn’t play a huge role in Amelia’s story, even when it might’ve had the need to do so.

While it was written in an entertaining style, I didn’t enjoy the epilogue. It felt rushed and unnecessary to the story itself. Then again, I generally expect a realistic story like this to end in a similar vein. Life doesn’t give us epilogues, because the story doesn’t end until we’re dead.

Tidbits Worth Repeating

While some kids waited for their letter to be delivered by owl or for their closet to one day reveal a magical land with talking animals and stone tables, I’d waited for the other shoe to drop. Because if there’s one thing I learned from books, it’s that life is fair and unfair, just and unjust.

I imagine whales swimming in the air between the trees, the forests of Orman rising up with their dark branches to mingle into the Michigan landscape. I pretend I am not real; Wally and Alex are not real. The world is one giant story and I’m only a figment of some author’s imagination, a discarded character that never made it onto a page. Strangely, it makes me feel a bit better.

I am different, but like the stories, I will hold up to more readings, even if those readings are drastically changed in my after.

There are a hundred thousand ways to tell a story. Medical students help people live longer and continue their own stories. Engineering majors tell a story of technology that goes back to caveman with rocks and sticks. Marine biologists piece together shreds of plot until they know where whales sleep at night and where fish live in coral reefs. Everything is a story, not just writing. You need to find the story that means something to you, a story you like telling.

Is it worth the coin?

Yes – this story will make you ache to your bones and then soothe the hurt.

Posted in [poetry]

my favorite book [poem]

I treat my heart like my favorite book
thumbing through the happy memories from time to time
retelling those stories with a smile
but like my favorite book
I’m both incredibly cautious
and amazingly careless with my heart
I might dog-ear the pages of my favorite moments
but I’m so nervous to let anyone borrow this love
who knows what kind of condition they’ll return it in
or if they’ll return it at all

Posted in [poetry]

friends in strange places [poem]

I had a tree friend once
and by that I mean
I once had a friend that was a small oak tree
his branches barely hitting the roof of our two story building
he wasn’t much of a talker
but he was the best at lending an ear
he wasn’t any good at hugs
but he grew a branch directly over the sidewalk
just to give me a high five every day
his leaves whispered loudest in the autumn breeze
and he caught the rain in his leaves the best
and I miss him
when it’s too sunny outside
and there’s no tree to greet me when I get home

Posted in [poetry]

writing a book [poem]

it’s hard to write a book
the kind that’s supposed to teach a stranger things
without ever looking them in the eye
you’d think it the ideal way for an introvert to share her knowledge
but instead it’s a struggle
to spell out important concepts
in self-contained lessons
with no interaction
or discussion
or signal that anybody’s getting it

Posted in [poetry]

Dad it’s your birthday [poem]

and I didn’t bother asking Mom for your number
I love you
but I prefer this silence just the same
it’s been years since I came out to you
half a decade since you told me
not to bother coming home
and I haven’t Dad
I love you
but this silence is my gift
wrapped in distance and disappointment
today I turned on the radio to wash the dishes
and I almost cried
[because a warrior gave up his place in Valhalla
to save his Valkyrie daughter]
because a song played
about a father sacrificing everything for his daughter
it’s one of my favorite songs Dad
one of the songs where
I blame my daddy issues for the tears
you were an amazing father once
I grew up loved
I never forget that
my friend worries that he’s a terrible father
and I use your love as an example of why
he’s doing everything right
because you loved me like your own flesh and blood
and what can you call a man
who loves his stepkids like their own
but a good father?
Dad you were a good father once
so good I never guessed I was a stepchild
until Mom decided to tell me so
every year I think about reaching out
about being the one to bend and break the silence
but I did nothing wrong Dad
there’s nothing wrong with the way I love
or the life I choose to live
maybe one day I’ll be able to forgive you
for not seeing it the same way
until then
I can only wish you happy birthday
in less than happy poetry
and relentless silence

Posted in [poetry]

taking care of you [poem]

I want to keep you forever
I want to tuck your heart into the safety
of my own rib cage
I want to run my fingers through your hair
I want to hold the world at bay
until you’re rested and ready to face it again
I want to bake you cookies
I want to fill you up until you’re not hungry anymore
be it for food or fun or affection
I want to curl up in the circle of your arms
I want to love you so thoroughly
that you forget what being lonely felt like

Posted in [poetry]

hopeless romantic [poem]

I’m not a hopeless romantic
my heart is full to the brim with hopeful optimism
instead I consider myself a helpless romantic
the kind of person who can’t help but want to love you
I will paint a lover’s every action with romance
but I will do the same to the actions of a stranger
love is in every moment
in every smile
every word
I can’t help but want love to be
all-encompassing and ever-present

Posted in [poetry]

embrace [poem]

I’m trying to find things to embrace
rather than continuing to float here
moved only by the current of the waters
and never with any effort to steer
toward or away from anything
I’m trying to stir this listless body into action
knowing it feels so good to dance
once you get started
but lying here unmoved is also good
and easier to not do
I’m trying to choose anything and everything
that pulls me away from inaction
even if it’s uncomfortable or awkward to get started
better to stumble than stand still
always so struck in my own head

Posted in [poetry]

traveler [poem]

I know myself by virtue of having never
been given a moment to linger
unchanged in a place of stillness
I’ve traveled more miles than some family cars
felt the warm anger of a Kentucky summer storm
the sharp sting of summer’s hot kiss in Texas
the caffeinated bite of Germany in December
I’ve known people who have also traveled
unnumbered miles before we met
their roadmap worn in different places than mine
but both equally well used
this is how you build a raindrop child into an ocean
let her waters collect and grow
from puddle to pond to Pacific
I know how to navigate by the stars of
my own secret hopes and long lost memories
thanks to a lifetime spent
never walking the same path twice
only a traveler can know they’re home
by the way the trees move in the wind

Posted in [poetry]

midwinter love [poem]

time slips by a phantom
without a whisper or goodbye
and suddenly it’s midwinter
and the grey skies murmur our names
a couple’s incantation
drawing us together to defeat the cold
and I want to watch the seasons change with you
taste the midsummer berries
under the blinding sun
and know we’ll melt next winter too
that new spring growth and dead autumn leaves
are both beauties we will witness together
again and again