Sunday, November 20, 2011

All About Alice

As you already know, I've been reading the Alice series for the past year or so.  I really believed that I had read a good portion of the series previously, and that many of these would be re-reads.  So far I've read seven books for this goal, and I hadn't read any of those before!  Here's the latest one in the series - new to me (and to you!) - All But Alice.

Alice's mother died seven years ago, when Alice was only five years old.  She doesn't remember much about her mother, and in fact she often gets memories of her mother and her Aunt Sally confused.  But even though she didn't really get to know her mother, her mother's death still affects her life every day.  This year (seventh grade is just starting at the beginning of the novel) Alice feels the loss of her mother very strongly.  She has felt for the past couple of books that the embarassing mistakes that she makes are mostly due to not having a mother or another strong female presence in her life.  But she does realize that there are lots of women, young and old, around her.  So to take advantage of all their wisdom and experience, Alice decides to join the Worldwide Sisterhood.

That sounds comforting and empowering, doesn't it?  Alice thinks she'll be safest following the sisterhood's lead.  But really the Universal Sisterhood isn't everything it seems.  For instance, Alice believes that sisters should put each other first.  So how can she balance the three women who are all in love with Alice's older brother Lester?  She knows Marilyn and Crystal, the two girlfriends Lester has alternated between, the best.  Alice likes them both for different reasons.  Then there's Loretta, who works at the music store Alice's dad manages.  Loretta seems older and more worldly than the other two, and Alice thinks that has its advantages, too.  "I felt as though I'd been admitted to the Secret Society of Sisters or something.  Whatever Loretta knew about life, she'd share with me, I was sure." (p. 25)  Who's a girl to support?

One of the other problems that Alice is trying to solve is the problem of popularity.  When several other girls in the seventh grade, including her best friend Pamela, decide to get their ears pierced, Alice wants hers done too.  After all, one of the best things about the sisterhood to Alice is solidarity.  This means, Alice believes, doing everything the same, looking the same, to show how strong they are together.  The girls become popular together, including spending most of their free time together, trying to decide what they will wear and how to coordinate their clothes with their new earrings.  But in becoming popular, Alice excludes one of her long-time best friends, Elizabeth.  Elizabeth has decided not to pierce her ears, and doesn't become popular.  At first, Alice doesn't even notice.  She is too busy feeling loved and comforted by her young sisterhood.  Alice needs help getting her first pair of earrings in, and her group is there to help her.  "After that, I felt terrific just thinking about the way the girls had fussed over me there in the restroom, the way they'd helped and encouraged me.  I'd been surrounded with Sisters..." (p.49)

So what does being a Sister really mean?  Alice has to come to terms with the fact that being in the sisterhood doesn't mean being a pod person.  This means valuing herself and her friendships, both with boys and girls.  Alice is an original, and that's what great about her character.  She's not perfect, and her mistakes in life are just as genuine as her desire to do the right thing for her sisterhood.  Alice is scattered, but excited about life and what's ahead for her.  At the beginning of the book, she muses "Only a day or so ago, I'd been thinking bulletin boards and now I was thinking pierced ears.  What would I be thinking about the day after tomorrow?  Being twelve, almost thirteen, meant all kinds of wonderful surprises..." (p. 16).  Alice keeps us guessing.  What will happen next to Alice?  We'll have to keep reading in this series to find out!

All But Alice.  Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.  Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1992, 2011.

my own copy

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