Last week I blogged about the changing covers of the Alice McKinley series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Today, I thought I'd blog about the books. I just read 10 Alice books more or less in a row. Separating them out into 10 different reviews is too much work (sorry) so this is just one mass review of the last half of the series. As such, there will probably be some spoilers.
The books I'm looking at are:
Alice On The Outside In which Alice worries about whether or not she's "in" or "out"--complete with quotation marks. Also prejudice and racism! And a lesbian! (Ok, with all the changing covers on this series, WHY does this one still look like it's from 1987? Especially when it came out in 1999?!)
The Grooming of Alice In which there is an eating disorder. Kinda. Not really.
Alice Alone Breaking up is haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaard toooooooo doooooooooo!
Simply Alice In which Alice develops outside interests and Liz and Pam resent her for it. Also! The one with abusive boyfriends!
Patiently Alice In which we talk a lot more about racism.
Including Alice What happens when the step-mother of your dreams finally moves in and you have to see her before she's had her coffee?
Alice on Her Way In which Alice gets her drivers license, goes to New York, and has a new boyfriend who is super clingy. We also learn a valuable lesson about reputations.
Alice in the Know In which there is beer and pot and a friend with cancer.
Dangerously Alice In which Alice has a boyfriend who wants to go further than she does and there's a car accident.
Almost Alice The one with teen pregnancy.
I have a love/hate relationship with Alice. I mean, I wish I was reading this series when I was in junior high and high school (although these books are the most relevant to that time and they all came out after I graduated from high school). I like that Alice sees all the issues around her, but even when she's "living dangerously" she's a pretty straight-laced. We don't have that many characters in YA lit, where they see everything going on around them, don't overly condemn it, but realize it's not for them, which I think is actually a lot of teens. I think Alice worries about a lot of things that most teen girls worry about but don't often put voice to.
almost has an eating disorder (I'm sorry Naylor, but no, you can't be "getting a little anorexic") but her friends and family help her see that she's lost too much weight, so she starts eating again and everything is fine. A friend is pregnant but luckily miscarries the baby so she doesn't have to make any of the hard decisions about what to do with it, or even tell her father!
The Grooming of Alice, Alice doesn't say that Pam and her dad fight all the time, no, they "quarrel." In one of the earlier books (before they break up) Alice is talking about how wonderful Patrick is at everything. But, instead of saying that he's good at everything he does, Alice says he's "competent." Really. And this is a boy she really likes, not someone she's stretching to say something nice about.
Patiently Alice but pretty much the same thing gets said in every book before Sylvia moves in:
Sylvia, with her blue eyes and light brown hair, her wonderful smile and wonderful scent, seemed the perfect [role] model for me and the perfect wife for Dad.
Patiently Alice, the girls all go off to be summer camp counselors for inner city kids. Now Alice got a token black friend in Alice on the Outside, but there are also some race issues in this one. In order to make the kids see that everything isn't all black and white, Gwen puts out black, white, red, and yellow paint and has the kids mix colors together until they get their own skin tone. The moral being that everyone needs a little of every color to get the mix right. BUT! Then one of the girls paints red stripes on her skin and says "Look! I'm an Indian!" and everyone laughs. No discussion (because lots of discussion only takes place to teach morals and life lessons in this series) about stereotyping or racism against Native Americans. Nope, it's a bonding moment amongst everyone. Ha. Ha. Ha. Grrrrr.
And, to end on a positive note, in Alice on her Way, we find out that Alice is Unitarian Universalist. This really excites me because I was raised UU and we don't see a lot of UU kids in literature and when none of your classmates have heard of your religion, well. Ok, so it never comes out and says that Alice is UU, BUT! Alice's dad signs her up for a class at church (the one on Cedar Lane, and there is a UU church on Cedar Lane in Bethesda. No I didn't look this up, my mom did. :) ) Anyway, the class is called Our Whole Lives and is about sex and relationships. That is a UU class. (Also, on the first day of class, they talk about why they're talking about it in church, and it's because one of the church's principles is respecting the inherit worth and dignity in every person. That's UUism.) Anyway, I took this class's predecessor and it's a unofficial right of passage. I was SO EXCITED to see it in a book. SO EXCITED.
While Alice drives me crazy, she does remind me a lot of me at that age, so I keep reading. The next book, Intensely Alice will come out this spring. Yes, I will read it. I'm looking forward to it.