Saturday, May 20, 2006
Alice Alone by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, 2001
Reading this book reminded me of how much I LOVED reading Nancy Drew books as a kid. I could not read them fast enough. When I tried to read one recently as an adult I found I could not make my eyes advance from one word to the next.
Similarly, the adult in me finds Alice's self-absorped 14 year old tunnel vision a little hard to take but that is what makes it a perfect read for those young readers who are experiencing the daily ups and downs of teenagerhood. They identify with her happy moments and the tragedies in her life.
This is the first Alice book I've read but the book quickly establishes that Alice is a well adjusted teen who loves her father and older brother. Her mother is dead.
Alice Alone begins as Alice starts her 9th grade year, her first year in high school. Her relationships with her friends are changing and she experiences a break-up with her longtime boyfriend, Patrick.
As the Alice books are frequently, the target of censors, I was curious to understand what is so dangerous and threatening about the series. Risking the mental, physical and emotional health of my own family I brought this book into our home.
Early in the story, Alice wants to host a co-ed sleepover. My heart went out to her father. He is trying to be a supportive but responsible single parent. It reminded me of family friends who have recently lost their mom and how bewildering it is to be the father of teenagers when you don't have another person to talk to about the kids.
Alice is a conscientious student. She struggles in algebra and forgoes a trip to the movies so she can complete her homework and studying. She is compassionate and cares about her family and her friends. She reaches out to people in need at Thanksgiving and ends up inviting three ex-cons to dinner with hilarious results.
Naylor addresses the subject of child abuse when Alice's good friend Elizabeth shares a secret she has carried since she was eight years old. With her friends' encouragement, Elizabeth tells her parents. Naylor handles the subject honestly and demonstrates that help is available. The novel offers the hope and promise of recovery.
Sadly, there are kids who are suffering from abuse in our schools today. Removing a book from a school library, that could point a child towards some options for getting help, is essentially sending the message that abused kids' problems are not fit for junior high and they should wait until high school to get help. After all, that is more "developmentally appropriate," n'est-ce pas?
I have just polled the family and SO FAR, they report no ill effects from the presence of the Alice books in the house. No one has suffered any pain or illness; no one's grades have plummeted. Everyone's cognitive and physical abilities seem to be operating within established parameters.
Posted by Camille at 6:44 PM