And now an awesome review from Stephanie Guerra! Her debut young adult novel, TORN, will be published by Marshall Cavendish in spring of 2012.
Hi Girlz,Sometimes I pick up a book in the middle of a series to see how well it stands on its own. Incredibly Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor gets a gold star. I jumped into the series on book 5, which takes place when Alice is seventeen.Alice is a sweet, steady narrator with a gentle approach to life. She’s “any-girl”; not gorgeous or brilliant or wildly unique, but solid, honest and dependable. She’s the kind of person you’d want for a best friend. The book opens on New Year’s, and takes Alice through the bittersweet last semester of high school.As her classmates prepare to launch their lives, Alice struggles with feelings of inadequacy. Her long-distance boyfriend, Patrick, is off to a semester abroad in Spain. One of her closest friends has just been accepted to theater school in New York. Another friend is getting married.Alice wonders: what should she do with her life? Is it wrong to stay close to home for college? Should she be aiming higher, or adventure-seeking like everyone else? What, if anything, meaningful has she done with her years in high school?Incredibly Alice is a slow, thoughtful novel that tackles the big questions about growing up, leaving high school, and taking that definitive step into adult life. There’s no pitching, heaving drama or bizarre plot twists in this book, but it is thoroughly engaging nonetheless. Reynolds brings alive the drama of small moments, like the excitement of being chosen for a part in a play, or the thrill of a limo ride after prom, or the delightful dance of flirtation with a gorgeous guy.Two things about the book struck me in particular. First, Reynolds is bold and honest in her approach to the issues girls face today. For instance, one of Alice’s friends is considering labial surgery. It’s a real issue for many girls, who feel they have to compete with porn stars for their boyfriends’ attention. Another of Alice’s friends is pregnant. And yet, Alice herself is a virgin. There’s a nice mix of experience levels in the characters of the books, just as there is in real life.The other thing that I noticed was an old-fashioned vernacular that crept into the book; terms like “taking in a movie” and “that was a scream!” The result is a charming mix of the quaint with the contemporary. Reynolds has stayed well abreast of issues for teens, and she doesn’t hesitate to allude to edgy topics. But her language has a slight flavor of the fifties, a sound that actually adds to the nostalgia at the heart of Incredibly Alice.I recommend Incredibly Alice as the perfect read for anyone wrestling with her future after high school, and I can say with confidence that you’re safe to jump into the series at any point and still enjoy a delightful book. ~Stephanie