Amelia Unabridged by Ashley Schumacher
I have a Goodreads shelf labeled “bookstore magic,” and if I could rank the books in this list, Amelia Unabridged would be number one. I’m not sure what I expected from this story, but it far exceeded my expectations and made my heart oh so happy. Well, after a few sniffles, at least. When we meet Amelia, her parents are in the middle of a divorce, her mom checks out of parenting, and she’s all alone, standing in front of a bookstore, when Jenna finds her. Jenna is the complete opposite of Amelia. She’s a planner, a doer, her parents are professionals invested in every step of her life, and they welcome Amelia with open arms. The two share a love of reading, and it permeates all they do. Four years later, and the girls graduate high school. The plan is to attend college together (there was a whole spreadsheet involved when picking schools), but first, they are going to a book festival to visit their favorite author, N. E. Endsley. His Orman Chronicles are obscenely popular, especially for someone so young as him. Their plans are altered when Endsley cancels his event at the festival, and when Amelia finds out that Jenna had something to do with it, she and Jenna have the biggest fight of their friendship. A week later, and Jenna is off to Ireland with Amelia in charge of attending a one-day seminar that will prepare them for college. Except, Jenna doesn’t come back. She’s killed in a car accident, and Amelia’s world is changed forever. Living life with grief is new for her, but her relationship with Jenna’s parents hasn’t changed. She eats dinner with them twice a week, and they are her biggest cheerleaders to keep following the dream she and Jenna planned for themselves in college. But when she gets a mysterious copy of Endsley’s book from a bookstore in Michigan, Amelia knows this is Jenna working some kind of magic. She calls the store but isn’t given any information, but something keeps niggling her. She decides to go to Michigan to figure out the mystery behind the book; Jenna’s parents (not hers, they have no idea what’s happening in her life) are in full support as long as she’s back to attend the seminar. With their blessing, she’s off.
It’s there, in Lochbrook, Michigan, at Val’s bookstore that the magic begins. First, this bookstore is a reader’s dream. It’s more of a house than a store, with three stories of nooks and crannies. Amelia describes it as “A chaotic, music-swirling, cinnamon roll-smelling, warm, inviting bookstore.” There’s mismatched furniture, shelves, and shelves upon books, a fireplace, book clubs arguing, a small cafe, and Wally, the bookstore’s unofficial dog. He’s brutish and slobbery, running straight into Amelia as she enters. Val, the store owner, embodies sophistication and has a no-nonsense attitude; Amelia loves her instantly. Her son Alex helps run the store. But the biggest surprise there is none other than a boy named Nolan. He’s broody, rude, standoffish, not good with people, and happens to be Alex’s best friend and roommate. He’s also the author that started this whole trip: N.E. Endsley. If Fate had a name, it would be Jenna. Amelia knows she has something to do with this. Whether it was Jenna or not, Fate has gotten Amelia this far, and she’s not about to leave Michigan without talking to Endsley about what Jenna said at the festival.
Grief is a huge part of this story, and not just Amelia’s for Jenna. Nolan and Amelia eventually talk, and after one night spent in the reading room (I NEED this room in my own house), their friendship takes a new turn. This new connection is unexpected and unexplainable, and I was here for it. Endsley is opening up more and more to Amelia, each knowing that she’s only there for a short time. As they become closer, Amelia questions the life she and Jenna had planned and if it’s really what she wants. Her guilt for all Jenna’s parents has given to her through the years and what they expect from her is overwhelming, stopping her from her dreams. Her time spent in Lochbrook is cathartic, and on the eve of going back to Dallas, she’s even more confused than ever.
I loved this book and the flashbacks of Amelia and Jenna. Their friendship is one for the ages, and it’s clear they both love each other. Alex and Nolan have a similar friendship that’s easy to recognize, mainly how Alex protects Nolan. Just like Jenna would have done for Amelia. Bookstore magic, friendship, grief, summer in Michigan, and an epic epilogue made this an easy five-star for me. I’m actually anxious to re-read it, something I don’t usually do! Or maybe listen to it? Debut author, Ashley Schumacher knocks it out of the park and I cannot wait for another from her.