As Amelia Johnson’s life draws to an end, she reaches out to her two closest friends: Henry Barrons, a celebrated filmmaker, and Jillian Webb, a writer for a prestigious magazine. Although Henry and Jillian don’t know each other, Amelia asks them to deliver her final messages to various friends and family that she can’t travel to see—she’s made some DVDs and wants them to be hand-delivered and for Henry and Jillian to record the reactions for her. The premise is kind of funny—in a world with Skype does it make sense to record a DVD, hand-deliver it, and wait for a recorded reaction?—but it’s an excuse to tell this story.
The story does borrow from Hollywood conventions a bit—it’s not really spoiling much to say that Henry and Jillian eventually discover that they belong with each other, because you sort of get that feeling from the beginning. They bicker at each other and they have very different personalities. As they travel across the country (with Henry’s cameraman and sound guy in tow) they constantly butt heads over how their mission should be carried out.
Meanwhile, Amelia’s story is slowly revealed through the videos she’s created and the recipients’ reactions to them. The six people chosen are pretty interesting, too—former boyfriends, her estranged brother, even Jillian’s ex-boyfriend. Both Henry and Jillian learn things they never knew about Amelia despite being so close to her.
While the premise may seem a bit morbid, the book takes the attitude of celebrating a life rather than mourning its loss, and the book is more about Henry’s and Jillian’s journey than about Amelia herself. The illustration style is interesting: parts of it reminded me of Archie comics but not everyone has the same style of eyes and noses and mouths. The book was actually illustrated by two people—when Dave Valeza was unable to complete the project, Kate Kasenow stepped in. But I didn’t know that until I’d finished the book, and hadn’t really noticed a substantial change in style anywhere in the book, so it was an impressive feat to match the styles together.
I must admit that I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of what I would tell somebody after my own death. It’s the same sentiment that makes a journal like Memento so compelling. So while An Elegy for Amelia Johnson does suffer from some movie-style tropes and engages in some shameless heartstring-tugging, I think the overall story is one that I could recommend for teens and adults. Because of a few profanities and some references to sexual situations the book isn’t intended for younger readers, but it’s probably a mild PG-13 and certainly not R-rated.
Note: this review was originally written for GeekDad as part of my Stories About Girls series.
Fed to jonathan's brain | February 16, 2011 | Comments (0)