Amelia Westlake is an easy read with an anti-establishment message. It wasn’t a great read, but it wasn’t a terrible read. On the whole, it was a witty and engaging read from an Ampersand Prize-winning author.
Amelia Westlake is an enjoyable read, and I do think that Erin Gough managed to highlight several issues that are important to young people. There was a definite feminist vibe to the book, which I believe young adults will warm to.
The book revolves around two main characters. There is Will (short for Wilhemina). Will is snarky, anti-social and politically evolved (apparently) and a talented artist. Yes, she could fit a stereotype. Harriet is an over-achiever, she’s a school prefect and star tennis player. Yes, another stereotype.
After school one day while Will is in detention and Harriet is sucking up to a teacher the two girls engage in a heated discussion and come up with a cartoon depicting their sleazy sports coach. The girls decide they should deliver it to the student newspaper to be published. The only trouble is the school newspaper editor (a friend of Will’s) won’t publish anything without a name attached to it. The girls come up with the pseudonym of Amelia Westlake. After the success of the cartoon, Will & Harriet decide to hook up and cause havoc in Amelia Westlake’s name.
The book continues along in this manner, where the girls continue to expose social injustices that are occurring in their elitist private school. The trouble is that the book feels contrived and a little like a sitcom at times. Nothing is ever entirely believable. At times, the characters feel like caricatures, particularly Will and her friend the school editor, Nat.
I did enjoy the comedy and the witty dialogue, and there were times that I laughed out loud.
“She’s a joiner. Joiners are the worst. She’s unbelievably repressed. She has a grating enthusiasm. She says meaningless things like, ‘Everything happens for a reason’ and, ‘There’s no “I” in team!”
I found Harriet incredibly endearing and grew to quite like her. Though, I am not entirely sure that private school students are as naïve and innocent as Erin Gough’s character of Harriet. I also enjoyed the sense of solidarity and power that was shown by the students towards the end of the book and thought that it was more realistic than most of what occurred in the book.
The book is somewhat unrealistic, contrived and melodramatic, but it is a funny read, and I do believe that most young adult readers will enjoy the writing, its characters and the witty plot. Its biggest problem is that it tries too hard to be an edgy satire rather than the engaging romp, it is actually is.
“Still making a fair amount of noise, I run after her, which is tricky, what with her being an elite sportsperson and me being an elite couch potato.”
“I’m comfortable with isolation, unlike some people I know who sweat at the temples if Snapchat is taking too many seconds to load.”