by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
[#27 in my 75 book challenge]
In the sixth book in the Alice series, Alice is finishing up seventh grade and starting summer vacation feeling a little bit in-between. She’s not a kid, but not a teenager. Her brother takes her out for a very grown-up night on the town, she travels with her two best friends alone on a train to Chicago, and she continues to wonder if her dad’s girlfriend (Alice’s language arts teacher, Ms. Summers) is going to be her new step-mom.
In addition, Alice goes to dinner at Patrick’s house, saves her brother from complete disaster on several occasions, visits her sixth-grade teacher in the hospital, saves Crystal from a bad date, and learns about the pencil test (if your breast can hold up a pencil on its own, you need to wear a bra). Alice isn’t a superhero or a boy wizard or the face of a dystopian civil war, but she is a regular teenage girl who thinks and feels all the random, weird, awkward thoughts that I thought when I was twelve. And that’s why I love her.
Sometimes I think Phyllis Reynolds Naylor is a genius for being able to write in the teenage voice so well. Sometimes you want to shake Alice, sometimes you want to congratulate her. Sometimes I see myself in her, and sometimes I wish my future daughter could be like her. She’s not perfect, but she’s not annoying.
The most interesting thing about this particular volume is the trip that Alice, Pamela, and Elizabeth take on the train to Chicago. The actual visit is fairly normal, but the train ride there was the main event of the story…where Pamela tries to act older and mature, but ends up capturing unwanted attention from a somewhat-intoxicated older gentleman. The effect of this event on all of the girls, though subtle, is apparent in their actions for the rest of the book. This scene really speaks to the pre-teen need to grown up physically before growing up emotionally, and Naylor clearly gives her message without preaching. I do think the parents in the story under-reacted to the events a little bit, but I guess these were different times? (Was 1996 “different times?” For goodness sakes, I was 12 in 1996 and my mom would have flipped!)
FINAL GRADE: B I think all the Alice books are going to end up getting B’s. They just aren’t good enough on their own to get “OMG A+” ratings. The true value here is in the books as a series, watching Alice deal growing up. She goes from embarrassment over buying jeans in sixth grade to far more mature issues in the later books. I think I am now at the point of the series where Naylor really hits her stride and knows what she’s doing with Alice, so I’m quite ready to keep reading!