Prime Meridian

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 15 Dec 2017

Member Reviews

I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting – but it wasn’t this. Less escapist space opera and far more dystopian, very-near-future, this novella packed a punch. I’ll be honest – given what else was going in my life, this was not the read I would have chosen to pick up. But I’m glad I did.

Amelia has edges – and quite right, too. So would I if I’d endured the lack of opportunity and dead-end options facing her. She has fixated on going to Mars – right from the time she was old enough to be ambitious and despite having had a series of unlucky breaks, she still is determined to get there. It’s the only thing that really matters… so it is painful to read of her constant struggles that seem to go nowhere. She is constantly angry and hostile to those around her – not ideal when one of her hard-scrabble jobs is to sell her companionship in response to an app.

The world is richly depicted – which seems to be Moreno-Garcia’s trademark, along with indepth characterisation that doesn’t impede the storyline. She nearly has the pacing nailed, but I did feel the ending was a tad hurried in comparison to the rest of the story. Having said that, novellas are fiendishly difficult to get right.

I enjoyed the story and the awkward dynamic between Amelia and the rest of the characters. The times when she is most at peace with herself and those around her, are when thinking of Mars, or watching the movies with an ageing actress who employs her to listen to her past. And if you think that sounds rather poignant, you’d be right.

I would love to read a sequel to this thought-provoking story as I find myself wondering about the character and what happens next. Recommended for fans of literary fiction. While I obtained an arc of Prime Meridian from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
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Amelia is a near-future equivalent of a millennial.  Forced to quit school to take care of her ailing mother, she gets by living with her sister, doing "Friendrr" gigs, and selling her blood.  It's a bleak life.  When her wealthy ex-boyfriend comes around, things may be looking up, but he turns out to be engaged to someone else.  Amelia has few prospects for a job, a career, or marital happiness, but she holds out home to, one day, go to Mars.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia's Prime Meridian is a thin little book, in more ways than one. Nothing about Amelia made me want to cheer her on in her dream to go to Mars.  I don't think I would even want to hang out with her.  I felt a little sorry for her, that she had to take care of her dying mother, and that she and her sister have such a bad relationship.  But she mostly came across as a whiny victim, certainly not as a heroine.

Moreno-Garcia paints a believable picture of the near future world of Mexico City in all its gritty, miserable reality.  Her subtle references to social trends, mores, and lifestyle give a sense of despair and hopelessness, but Amelia retains hope in the midst of this that she will get to Mars.  This is an interesting little book in some ways, but I didn't like it all that much.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!
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Prime Meridian is a lovely, quiet science fiction novella.

Amelia is a lonely woman, drifting through an unsatisfying life in Mexico City. She’s wound up living with her bossy older sister and her two nieces in one cramped apartment, while she works a series of odd temp jobs, mostly as someone rich people can hire to be their friend.

But Amelia has dreams. She dreams of Mars. Becoming a Martian colonist requires resources that are far out of Amelia’s grasp, but she’s never given up on the dream.

“Adrift” is the perfect description of Amelia. She spent her entire childhood studying hard to get a college scholarship, and then she lost it when she had to leave to care for her sick mother. Now her mother’s dead and Amelia’s unemployable. The class divide in this novella is stark. Soon after the beginning of the novella, Amelia reconnects with an old boyfriend, who she went to college with. He’s wealthy and seems interested in her… but he’s also got a fiancee.

One of the things that struck me the most about Prime Meridian was Amelia’s job as a Rent-a-Friend. It’s utterly terrible that you could hire someone to be your friend… but I also believe it’s a startup that could really happen. Apparently something like it already has? Anyway, Amelia’s not that charismatic or good-looking, so she has trouble finding work even as a fake friend. Pretty much her only client is an old woman who used to be an actress, before she gave it up and married a rich man. She hires Amelia to watch her old movies with her.

So many of the movies are set on Mars. Not the real, scientific Mars, but the dream of Mars. The B-movie, pulpy, spacemen and aliens Mars. The sections of the novella were divided up by excerpts from these movies scripts, and they play a large role in the story. This whole tale is about Mars as a dream and an escape, so of course the depiction on the silver screen ties into that.

Prime Meridian isn’t really about Mars. It’s about Mars as a dream, a hope, and a chance. Amelia wants out of unfulfilling life. Would Mars really be any better? Maybe not, but having hope is better than nothing.

Prime Meridian is a haunting novella that swept me away with its dream of Mars.
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Prime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a near-future novella that has been sitting in my TBR for a surprisingly long time, although the release date is this month. (The reason is that the review copies were sent out close to the crowdfunding campaign for the book.)

Amelia dreams of Mars. The Mars of the movies and the imagination, an endless bastion of opportunities for a colonist with some guts. But she’s trapped in Mexico City, enduring the drudgery of an unkind metropolis, working as a rent-a-friend, selling her blood to old folks with money who hope to rejuvenate themselves with it, enacting a fractured love story. And yet there’s Mars, at the edge of the silver screen, of life. It awaits her.

This book was kind of bleak, albeit not completely devoid of hope. Set in a future Mexico City so near that, aside from the colonies on Mars, it could be tomorrow. Amelia, our main character, has a shitty life living on the poverty line and dreaming of moving to Mars.

The story is mostly about her trying to make ends meet and save up enough to buy a ticket to Mars in a very gig-based economy (at least for the not-wealthy). Her main job is working as a sort of rent-a-friend (via an app) and, among other things, listening to an old lady talk about her life as a movie starlet in pulpy science fiction movies (especially the one set on Mars). 

This wasn't a terrible story but I didn't love it. It was a very mundane kind of bleak which wasn't particularly what I expected from the cover art. I also thought there'd be more experiences of Mars in it, but Amelia doesn't see it for herself during the novella. We just hear a lot of different things about how much better or worse it is there which doesn't give much of a feeling of hope. I mean, I think that was what the author was going for, but it wasn't really what I was hoping to read.

I recommend Prime Meridian to fans of near-future and mundane SF who don't mind reading something that isn't too cheerful. I wasn't a huge fan, but I will probably check out some of the author's other work in the future (for example Signal To Noise, a novel I bought on sale some time ago).

4 / 5 stars

First published: July 2018 (backer copies December 2017),  Innsmouth Free Press
Series: No
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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Silvia Moreno-García aprovecha un escenario de futuro cercano para contar una historia de frustración y lucha contra la adversidad que podría estar aconteciendo ahora mismo en el edificio de al lado.

Prime Meridian es el nuevo comienzo de Amelia, una joven mejicana que mira hacia la colonización de Marte como su única salida de una vida condenada a la mediocridad y la pobreza. Pero incluso ese viaje está fuera de sus posibilidades.

La autora relata con toda crudeza la situación de status quo irresoluble en la que se ven atrapados muchos jóvenes, sin posibilidades de avanzar pero con el miedo a retroceder aún más en la endeble escalera de la economía. Es difícil calificar esta obra como ciencia ficción, porque no tiene apenas elemento especulativo, y el viaje a Marte se podría haber sustituido fácilmente por cualquier otro mítico El Dorado inalcanzable. Lo que sí se puede decir sobre Prime Meridian es que su verosimilitud es su principal baza y también su principal amenaza. Su personaje protagonista no despierta empatía, ni siquiera en su trabajo como "amiga profesional" consigue conectar con las personas a las que presta servicio, pero aún así nos sirve para hacer una reflexión poderosa sobre las metas que tenemos en la vida y que esperamos cumplir.

Me gusta la representación de la ciudad de Méjico como un hervidero de actividad en el que los humanos se pierden como gotas entre los intersticios de la mano, consigue darle más credibilidad a la historia.

No es una obra que recomendaría al lector que vaya buscando ciencia ficción al uso porque no es lo que va a encontrar. Pero si que es una obra que merece la pena leer.
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Despite the space cover and the SF theme the star of this book is the relationships. I particularly enjoyed Amelia. She is a complex believable character. I thought the other characters were a bit rougher but it is a novella. I am also glad Silvia Moreno-Garcia brought some of her Mexican heritage into this novella as it always gives her stories an enjoyable uniqueness. I wasn't blown away but it was an enjoyable read.

Thanks to NetGalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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I got an ARC copy of Prime Meridian from Net Galley and loved it. It is a fantastic novella (what are my reading habits coming too?).

Prime Meridian is a really light type of sci-fi. There’s no robots, no space ships, no aliens, just a city that is disenfranchised by technology and money, as people scrape and struggle to make ends meet. It’s a sci-fi that blends the now and the future, but that you can easily imagine the tipping point as we fall forward into prioritizing the wealthy over the poor.

Amelia dreams of going to Mars. But there are different tiers of access to Mars, where rich people can pay their way to join the colony but the poor go as indentured servants. She has no hope but to continue working menial, minor jobs in order to maybe one day save enough. I loved the concept of Friendr, which is obviously based on Fiverr. I’ve used Fiverr before and really dislike it. It does weird things to the psyche in my opinion when you’re trying to make money in a system that devalues your labour.

But ultimately this is a novella about relationships and loneliness. Moreno-Garcia does a really good job at creating the character relationships and made me cry at the end (which was awkward since I was reading this at work). This is the second book by Moreno-Garcia that I’ve read and I’m constantly impressed by her work. I will definitely be picking up more books by her.
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Great story strong on character development, less so on science fiction

I enjoyed this book. Although science fiction plays a role in the backdrop of the story, this novella is about people. It has very strong character development and the settings are described very well. These far outweighed the lack of science fiction and this book was a thoroughly entertaining one. It is well worth the read.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley for review purposes.
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First off, I have to admit that I was going through a weird reading slump when I picked up this novella, so it took way longer for me to read than it should have. It is short, but the pacing is very slow, so it's probably a book to read when you've got the patience to hang around and wait for the payoff. I do think the ending was worth it.

We follow Amelia, a bright 20-something, down on her luck in a near-future Mexico City. She had to drop out of college to care for her ailing mother, and having lost that opportunity, the economic realities of her situation are pretty dire. There seems to be no path forward to a respectable career for her anymore, and yet she cannot let go of her long-standing dream of emigrating to a colony on Mars.

Amelia's interactions with a variety of people in her social orbit form the focus of this novella, most importantly two clients who hire her through an app Amelia uses to offer her services as a professional friend. The first is an elderly former actress named Lucía, who hires Ameila to watch her old films with her, including one terrible, campy space flick set on Mars. The second is a super-wealthy ex-boyfriend of Amelia's who dumped her at the request of his father and has now located her again via the friend app. He's a pretty useless human being, but Amelia allows herself to be dragged back into an ill-defined sexual relationship with him, more out of economic desperation than anything else.

Though distant at the start, Lucía gradually reveals more of her own life to Amelia, and there is a through-line involving a version of the Mars film that never got made, in which the female character was to be an intrepid space explorer instead of a damsel in distress, with a story that was hers and not someone else's. As I said, the ending was great, even if it takes some patience with the casual, meandering desperation of Amelia's world to get there.
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I started off really, really disliking Amelia. She was so whiny and negative and frankly kind of bitchy about everything. But as I got to know her story, I found myself really empathetic toward her, as I've been a similar (though not nearly as bad) situation - she wanted to be a scientist, but had to drop out of college and is now unable to get any permanent job (I'm just having trouble breaking into my field, but I have spent some time unemployed and it sucks so much). I realized that the author actually very well captured the mindset of someone who feels stuck and unable to do much of anything to improve their situation.

Amelia dreams of going to Mars, but has no way to earn the money for it. She works as a rent-a-friend and whatever other gigs she can find. One day, her ex requests she meet him through the rent-a-friend app. Her ex who basically ghosted her when she left school. Understandably, she's quite angry with him. After their time is up, she vows never to see him again. She does. Quite a few times. 

{Sort of spoiler alert, but I'm still trying to be vague}

I absolutely loved the ending of this story. It's so different from what I see in just about every book, movie, TV show, and even in real life - the girl does not give up her dreams and desires for the sake of the boy. It's wonderful. I mean, I'm not against love, not at all. I just don't think it's fair that women always have to give up what they want for the men they love, or that they're always portrayed being so driven and career oriented, just to meet a man and suddenly only want to be a wife and mother. That isn't what every woman wants, and it's nice to see it happen in media every once in a while.
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Just a quick note, this book is technically already out if you were one of the backers for the author's IndieGoGo, if not this one does not come out until this summer. I was lucky to receive a copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is becoming a fast favorite author of mine. I like that she writes about younger adults (mid-20s to older) so it makes it easier for me, a 27-year-old, to relate to her characters. I like that with Amelia she writes a really lost character that just doesn't know where to go with her life. I think that is natural to feel that way, but I think our society tells us that we are supposed to have our whole life figured out. Amelia is also kind of cold and unlikeable, which I find interesting. The text in this novella even has a conversation between her and another character about how, "some people are just not meant to be liked." I find this concept to be really interesting.

I have to admit that this novella was just not what I was expecting. I do think since it deals with how technology affects society it should still be counted as a Sci-Fi book, but we never actually see Mars in the story. I think that is kind of the point. In the story, Amelia finds work on an app called Frendrr and has frequent booking with an old actress named Lucia. Lucia says to Amelia, "There are only two plots...A person goes on a journey and a stranger comes into town." This book isn't about Amelia's life on Mars, this is about her journey to get there. 

Moreno-Garcia has this incredible knack for just painting the setting inside my head with her words. Like Signal to Noise, I felt like I could really see the city that Amelia lives it. You could really feel the bleakness of the world and the subtle way in how it has turned into a dystopia. It's very slight with just a few sentences here and there to show the economic depression and how everyone is struggling to survive. I like a good near-future story that is just close enough to current day. It makes it feel more real and believable. 

I think if you liked Moreno-Garcia's other books you would enjoy this one. Since it's a novella it's also shorter and a quicker read to get through.

*I received a free egalley copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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I expected a space sci-fi, but ended up with a life drama. I liked the dystopian world that Amelia lives in. It’s so poignant and tells a story we’ve heard time and time again in real life. She was on track for a stable life, and then everything went sideways. The years rolled forward, and she finds herself in a situation many of us face every day. But she still dreams of Mars.

Sometimes, it’s hard to like Amelia, but as in life, no one is perfect, except on Facebook. The relationship between Amelia and Lucía is so wonderfully written, and so “real,” I wonder if it is the fictionalization of actual events. I applaud writers that can pack so much story into a novella, and Silvia Moreno-Garcia does just that. The division between the haves and the have nots is perfectly realized in this novella.

Prime Meridian is a powerful novella, and although the cover and description led me astray, I’m glad that I got to read this excellent novella. Definitely a four-star read.
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Thanks to NetGalley for this copy of Prime Meridian.

I was eager to read something by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and this novella hasn't disappointed me at all. The money issues, gigs and precariousness as the setting of the story is very relatable to the millennial generation, especially to those who live in countries deeply struck by the economic crisis. Amelia, the main character forced to struggle with a toxic family and a very difficult social situation. The huge gap between the rich and the poor. The selfishness, the reification of the people without resources, the injustice and insecurity, the weight of distress and the unknown future. Every of these issues is present on the book; but, over all, there are Mars and the hope of a better life.

With a dynamic, casual but very evocative prose, Moreno-Garcia tells us a very deep story about world's hardship and how sometimes our dreams can stop us or tie us up, but can also protect us from decisions that would mean a final surrender. In Prime Meridian, clinging to your dreams is the only act of rebellion allowed by a society that seems to be shouting: “If you have nothing, resignation is the only way to survive.”

This is a great story, with great characters and a great structure as well. It’s divided in blocks of two chapters intertwined with little "interludes" that emulate the style of a movie script, mirroring Amelia's path through the plot. Because cinema is another of the most important elements of the book, and it acts like a bridge between dreams and reality.

5/5 to Prime Meridian, because it manages to tell in a very sharp, clever way everything the author wanted to tell us.

Full review (in Spanish) in La Nave Invisible.
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Amelia works as a rent-a-friend, spending time with others in exchange for a little money in her pocket.  All the while, she dreams of mars and a life different from her own.  This was more of a short-story than a novel.  I didn't get a real feel for the characters.  The entire book felt bleak, making it feel as if it was going nowhere.  Overall, not a book for me.
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What an beautiful and moving novella.  Moreno-Garcia has crafted an evocative tale in Mexico City, centered around Amelia and her struggles as a young and unemployed person in the near-future. 

This was a masterpiece of a short story. Completely original and filled with the most human of characters, I couldn’t stop reading this story. The city was so real and vibrant, which is no easy feat in a few short stories. 

This was my first book by Moreno-Garcia and it will not be my last. She is a true master of writing.
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Really interesting short story. Near-future, recognizable places and tech. Sympathetic characters. Excellent prose and pacing. Fantastic introduction to Moreno-Garcia's writing. Can't wait for more.
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In general, I’m not a big fan of novellas. I like a long story that I can really sink my teeth into.  Too often, an author tries to do too much in a novella. They cram in world building, character development, a plot and a message, and none of it gets enough attention. I’ve read some novellas that spent so much time setting up the situation that it felt like the actual conflict got wrapped up in 30 seconds.

Prime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the rare example of a story that fits just right into the novella length.

Much of the success of this book is due to the author’s deft hand. Moreno-Garcia doesn’t spend a lot of time on exposition, yet she still manages to convey a sense of place and give us a three-dimensional main character. A few details about Mexico City conjure a complete image of the setting. Amelia’s personality and past are revealed as we get to know her better, showing themselves in how she reacts to people and situations, and in the relevant details of her past that she reflects on as they relate to her present situation.

Amelia is a character that many Millennial readers will be able to identify with. She had to drop out of school to care for a dying mother, and having lost her scholarship, she now has a worthless half-finished degree and no career prospects. She lives with a resentful sister and scrapes by on “side hustles.”

Her main source of income is “Friendrr”, an app that lets people hire friends. This also serves as an introduction for two of the secondary characters. One is Amelia’s main client, Lucia, a retired actress who loves to watch her old movies and work on her memoir. She doesn’t necessarily consider her past “the good old days”, however. She presents an unvarnished look at what it was like to be a B-Grade actress and work with difficult creatives. Honestly, I adored her. She started out seeming like a shallow throw-away character intended to establish what Amelia’s work was like, but she had a depth to her that I loved.

The other is an ex who finds her through the app, and serves as a source of conflict. Does Amelia want to be with him, does she just want the money, or does she want nothing to do with the whole situation?

Oh yes, and there’s Mars.

This may have sounded like literary fiction until now, but Mars is integral to the story. Although everything else about Amelia’s life feels like present or near-future, in this story we have colonies on Mars, and that’s where Amelia wants to be, more than anything.

Her ex used to share her dream of Mars.

And Lucia starred in a movie about Mars.

All of this together into a story about dreams and reality and film making.

In many ways, Prime Meridian feels like the prequel to the book you’d expect to read. So often, we’re given stories about colonists trying to make it on Mars. But this is about what happens before you get to the red planet, the struggle to achieve that dream.

Pros: Latina protagonist, a quick and satisfying read.

Cons: Not available in Kindle store.

Conclusion: Perfect for a short flight to your own adventure.

Prime Meridian will be available on July 10th 2018. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced review copy.
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There’s a candour about Prime Meridian that won me over from the start. Amelia glowers off the page, her daily frustrations and challenges all too familiar to anyone desperate to hang on to their dreams when faced with an uncaring world. This is a future so near you can smell it, made up of daily trade-offs – the value of Amelia’s time vs the cost of reaching her clients; the need for privacy vs the expense of drinking coffee in cafes; friendships vs social utility. She navigates snobbery and casual sexism, avoiding the gangs as assiduously as she avoids her sister.

It’s hard not to consider Amelia as lonely as she is frustrated, stewing in her own self-loathing. She takes money from people she despises because it’s still better than any of the dead-end jobs her sister keeps pushing her at.

All of which makes this novella sound dreary and depressing, but it’s not – just as Amelia isn’t unlikeable in spite of her hard edges and uncompromising pragmatism. I fast found myself rooting for her, perhaps because – even though we’re seeing them through Amelia’s bias – the people she interacts with seem entirely deserving of her disdain.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia depicts her supporting cast mercilessly without ever stuttering into caricature: Fernanda’s uncaring showboating; Anastasia’s snide, undermining comments; the solicitous yet somehow disinterested attention of Elías, who seems to be more attached to his idea of Amelia than the reality of who she is and what she wants.

Easily the most likeable member of the cast is Amelia’s client Lucía, an aging B-movie actress who is as fascinated by Mars as Amelia herself. Her memories of shooting cult movies with billowing dresses and rayguns, space pirates and out-of-place Vikings add a vibrancy and warmth to the story – and leave their mark on Amelia, drawing her out of her protective shell. Lucía’s Mars is as fictional as the girl on the Visit Mars billboard Amelia stares at; but both seem at times more real than the actual colony beyond Amelia’s reach.

This is arguably not SFnal at all in spite of its near-future setting and love affair with the Red Planet, but I’d urge any SF reader to pick it up. I enjoyed it for its tone of voice and the skill with which Moreno-Garcia captures her cast in the briefest of vignettes. It cements my desire to read all of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s work – this has nothing but its setting in common with Certain Dark Things, and I’m fascinated by the literary edges and chameleon qualities of her work.
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Set in a near-futureish time, this novella revolves around main character Amelia's struggle to eke out a life in Mexico City and her unceasing (if out of reach) desire to move to a colony on Mars. 

Though it is set in the future, it is a future that seems scarily imaginable: The untenable life of a young person without means; The out of control gig economy; The society so divided by class that it's falling apart. 

As with all Moreno-Garcia's work, her characters are fantastically rich (which is no easy feat in a novella). Amelia's humanity really shines through and carries the novella. 

I would recommend this book to all of the disenfranchised millennials returning to their parents houses after college, or to anyone having trouble finding their way in the world.
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In the foreword, Prime Meridian is described as a ‘quiet masterpiece’ and I have to agree. I can’t find any other description that sums this novella up more succintly. I can only say that through Prime Meridian, the author documents the internal struggle and frustration faced by current younger adults at about 20-25ish years old, especially concerning their career life. It is often during this age that most people have just graduated from some kind of tertiary studies and are at that stage where rejection is norm and dead-ends are all you seem to face.

After I’ve figured out the theme that this book revolves around, I had originally thought that ‘this doesn’t look too good, the protagonist is starting to sound what generations before mine would say ‘whiny’ ‘. I also grew frustrated that she repeatedly allows Élias back into her life, and get stuck into this self-pitying state that she gets from comparing herself to others. But to be honest, our lead behaves as most people in reality would, and I respect the author for writing this character as it is. I was mentally begging Amelia to take some kind of action, do something to change her life for the better. Rest assured that this book ends on a hopeful note. The author took the time to really explain and create empathy for Amelia, which I appreciate because much too often the Amelias of real life are dismissed as ‘self-entitled’ and ‘ungrateful’ when they try and share their experiences and what they’re feeling, usually using social media.
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