Felt Exactly Like Elizabeth

Question:

I read my first Alice book, Alice In-Between, in the sixth grade and remembered that I had not read anything like it before. I related to and connected so much to Alice even though we aren’t alike in many ways – except for the fact that she was a girl finding her way in the world.

It’s fun to remember the memories I had with the series; I received a poster years ago, I read all of the books from the series I could the summer after eighth grade, and only a year ago when the last book came out, I was able to meet you in the basement of a cute little bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Your personality that day warmed my heart, and seeing you talk in person was like seeing my mentor that was there for me throughout my childhood. I vividly remember you talking about the last book and how Alice was losing her virginity, and a little girl in the audience said, “What’s that?”. I smiled because I feel like that’s something Alice would have asked Lester or her Dad at that age.

My parents never gave me “the talk”, and I’m sure my perceptions of sexuality would be skewed by the media and all sorts of unreliable sources. Actually, the other day I was using a tampon for the first time in years, and I felt exactly like Elizabeth the day she was at the pool. I couldn’t help but laugh. I’ve learned so much from you, Alice, and her friends and family.

I am in the middle of re-reading Now I’ll Tell You Everything as a freshman in college, and it’s weird to finally be the same “age” as Alice in the beginning of the book as a lost girl in a new school. I know that when I have a daughter OR son, I’ll be buying them the Alice books for their birthday. I can only hope they relate to, learn, and laugh as much as I did with Alice. Much of my love from reading started with Alice.

Thank you with all my heart.

Phyllis replied:

Your tampon story made me smile.  I still have Alice moments.  I was eating in a New York restaurant with my editor once, and we started up a grand staircase in the middle of the dining room to the balcony.  I was wearing clogs, and one of my feet slipped out and made me stumble and sit down.  Immediately, several men in the tables below jumped up to come to my rescue, and all I needed was my shoe.  “Another Alice moment,” I murmured, and that helped me get through it.  Thank you so much for taking time to write to me.  I enjoyed it so much.

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DETAIL ORIENTED

Question:

Something I noticed in the books recently, in Incredibly Alice, Patrick says he sits down on the couch that Alice “was on when she was over”. But wasn’t that Max P, the dorm for the summer students? Didn’t Patrick move into the year-round student dorm when Fall came around? His roommate definitely changed.

I also wonder what Ben and Sylvia said when Alice and Patrick got married on the same day as they did, October 18th. Not that I think they made a big deal out of it, I just thought someone might mention it. Although given the weddings over the series, most of them seem to take place either around Thanksgiving or October. Is that really the best time to get married or just a coincidence that most people decided to marry at that time?

When I read about Patricia having one sip of beer and Patrick’s reaction to it, I felt a bit confused. I know drinking is heavily frowned upon in America when done by minors and the drinking age is higher than in Germany. But, well, my mother allowed me to have a tiny sip of beer if I asked for one when I was a kid – it wasn’t something forbidden, so when I turned 18 and was legally allowed to drink any alcohol, I saw no big thing about it. In fact, I learned that alcohol was pretty boring. I didn’t even start “drinking” until I turned 23 years old. I just never felt the urge to have any alcohol because I knew about it and realized it was not as great as people seemed to make it out.

A Fan Who Notices The Tiniest Of Things The More She Reads The Alice Books

Phyllis replied:

You certainly do notice the tiniest of things, and I have no idea who sat on what couch, nor do I remember wedding dates, birthdays, or Patricia’s first sip of beer.  I’m delighted that you pay so much attention to detail.  You might get a job as copy-editor at a publishing company.  I’ll bet they’d be glad to have you!

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WISHED FOR A WHOLE BOOK ABOUT COLLEGE

Question:

I am 28 (almost). I started reading Alice when I was in 6th grade, and read the books fairly regularly up until I started high school, and I caught up to Alice in age. I enjoyed the books immensely, but over my high school and college years, I didn’t bother to keep up with Alice. Last year, I was browsing in Barnes and Noble, when I found the first Alice collection, “I Like Him, He Likes Her.” I still read some YA now and then, and the title intrigued me. I picked it up, realized it was Alice, and bought it immediately. Over the next year, I ordered and read each collection from Alice’s high school years. I waited patiently for “Now I Will Tell You Everything” to come out in paperback (like many book lovers, I must have all books from a series in the same format, and it somehow felt like cheating to read the final Alice book before I owned a copy). I finished the book last night.

I cried for an hour.

I’m crying now, a little, as I write this email. I can’t explain it to my baffled boyfriend, but I somehow feel that Alice would understand me.

Alice always felt like a real person to me. Though she was older than me the first time I read about her, and much younger the second time, though we had different experiences in the small scale, in a lot of ways, Alice is me. I hope my boyfriend (of 5 years, someone I knew and dated in high school) and I can work as well as Alice and Patrick.

As Alice caught up to and passed me in age & experience, I saw my potential life roll out in front of me. At 28, in some ways this is the first time I’ve really acknowledged that I will truly grow older, become old.

In some ways, it was disheartening. If each of Alice’s books & experiences were 200 pages, then her middle school years were 1000 pages long, her high school years over 2000 pages. The rest of her life took barely 500 pages. It was rewarding, satisfying, but for someone who identified with Alice, did this mean the bulk of MY life was over? I wished for a whole book about college, one about life after college & planning a wedding, one about married life & raising children.

I think maybe this is just the way time works. As a child and teenager, it passes slowly. It seems like you will never get out of your heartbreak & agony & then all of a sudden you are 25 going on 30 and where has the time gone?

In many ways, this email is just me trying to work through the visceral reaction I had to the end of the Alice series. Like the end of Harry Potter, the end of Alice is the end of my childhood. Only great things lie ahead of me, I hope, but sometimes I wish I were still 17, a little silly, with the world at my fingertips and all the possibilities open–bad and good. I wish I’d appreciated it more. I’ll try not to dwell on past or future, but focus on what I have now.

Ms Naylor, thank you for these books. I hope some day to pass them on to my friends’ children, possibly my own.

(P.S. You know people live in Oklahoma, right? We don’t really appreciate every mention of someone moving to OKC accompanies by an “Oklahoma? Really?” Even if that is accurate to real life. Oklahoma. It’s not as bad as you’d think.)

Phyllis replied:

Yes, indeed, I know folks live in Oklahoma and I have been to Oklahoma.  There’s a whole musical about your wonderful state!  I can empathize with you feeling that life is whizzing by, that we are ALL growing old, and that you wished I had written complete books about all the different  ages of Alice.  I just wanted to make sure I covered all the big bases in her life while I was still around.  Besides, there are so very many books yet I want to write, and it’s time to devote those six months of each year to other ideas.  But I very much appreciate your writing to me.  The end of childhood is in some aspects a bittersweet time.  Seems like we spend our first 20 years wanting to grow out of it.  Then we have to get serious, we have other people to take care of, big decisions to be made.  You are so smart to dwell on the present and enjoy what you have now.

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Unresolved

Question:

I recently re-read majority of the Alice books and I realized there were some things that seemed to completely disappear off the radar in the final book, leaving questions for me.

Like, did Kay and James end up together or did they realize that, while they talk, they don’t have any feelings for each other and decide to go their separate ways, no matter what their families may say? Whatever happened to Pamela’s mother? Did she get her life back together? Although I still wonder at times why it took Alice so long to realize that she wanted nothing to do with Tony. I mean, if a guy had put his hand so close to my breast just for taking a picture like in Dangerously Alice, I would’ve given him a nice, hard slap across the face for touching me without my permission. But then, I knew my personal limits on what I allowed a guy to do much faster than Alice did.
And as nice it is to know that a good book can make you feel alongside the main character, at times I felt myself get incredibly frustrated with some of the characters. When Jill gets pregnant, I felt like telling her “Well whoop-de-freaking-doo” and yes, considering she was ready to be a mother for the rest of her life, I did expect her to have planned the rest of her life, including college…!
Although I think the biggest anger came in Now I’ll Tell You Everything, with Mrs Butler. While I do understand where she’s coming from, I do feel like I want to grab her and slap some sense into her. After all, “Just Saying No” and being abstinent doesn’t work. This may be a pessimistic view, but what if saying No doesn’t work because the other party slips you something to make you more… “cooperative”? And as Alice thought herself, what about the kids who had already experienced sex? I mean, I myself am still a virgin and I am a year older than Alice was when she married, but this isn’t an abstinence decision. More of a personal trauma thing.
What Mrs Butler needs to realize is that open communication is much better than just plain forbidding things. Children, and especially teens, are much more likely to do something if they’re just plain forbidden from doing it. If there’s open communication about it and it isn’t thrown into high heavens like the forbidden fruit, they’re more likely to be open about it towards their parents. My mother brought me up with the idea of “If you’re old enough to ask the question, you’re old enough for the answer” and even simplified, according to the age. And it worked fine with me.
Then again, I think I really lost it when Mrs Butler mentioned homosexuals kissing in the streets and with the help of God. That woman needs some damn toleration slapped into her head.

Phyllis replied:

Whew!  That’s a lot of slapping.  I’m a little more tolerant here.  It seems to me you do a lot of planning in advance, which is good, except when it doesn’t quite work.  I certainly didn’t always date guys who would have been future marriage-material.  I knew it at the time, but I liked the feel of being in love, liked the attention, liked practicing the kissing part, just liked getting introduced to different lifestyles.  But the only time I “went too far” was in my first marriage, when I thought mistakenly that perhaps if I got pregnant, it would help my paranoid-schizophrenic husband to make the choice of being a father and give up his Ph.D dreams which seemed to be driving him mad.  One of the worst mistakes I ever made in my life, and my miscarriage was one of the best things that happened to me.  All of that seems like another life now, with another husband, but looking back on it, I always thought of myself as so grown-up, serious, mature, and yet…looking back…I had SO much to learn.  All I’m saying is that it’s pretty easy to look at a situation and think, “Why on earth didn’t they….?”  I know.  I do it too.  But now to answer your questions:  Yes, I think Kay and James will make a go of their relationship.  (I had to stop and try to remember who they were).  Pamela’s mother is an on-again, off-again problem, and one of the reasons, I think, why Pamela didn’t marry until very late in the game.  Pamela getting pregnant?  As well brought up as I was, there were definitely times in my own dating I wished a guy would go further than he did.  I had sexual feelings too, you know.  I think your mom had a good philosophy about answering her children’s questions.  And I have a feeling that Mrs. Butler is in for some rude surprises from her children when they are old enough to rebel, as her daughter is surely doing.  But THANK YOU for reading the final Alice book so thoroughly.  I enjoy hearing from readers like you.

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No religious reference?

Question:
 
Hello there,
My name is Hilary. Although i did not read all of the Alice Books I did however read the last book. I loved it but I think I would have loved it even better if the character Alice had a closer relationship to God. i was wondering why you did not feel the need to make that particular relationship stand out.
I am writing this email hoping that i will get some answers. I don’t even know if this is the right email address.
whether you who are reading this is Phyllis Reynolds Naylor or someone else i really hope that my question be answered.
Have a Great Day.
 
 
Phyllis replied:
 
Yes, it is Phyllis who is responding to your email.  Probably the reason Alice does not seem to have a closer,or more personal relationship to God is because I am still on me religious journey.  Having been raised in a devout religious family, my only complaint was that there were–are–just too many questions about religion and God that seem to have no intelligent answers, and, as a former nun once wrote in her book, “I’ve stopped making excuses for God.”  There are times Alice does refer to God, to prayer, but perhaps her religious crisis at the end of the book, “Intensely Alice,” sums it up for me.  Also, Alice represents girls of many cultures, many family relationships, many faiths, and I would not want to show Alice going to church or praying at meals without getting into the deeper expressions of her faith, and those in turn would lead to more questions, which would depend on what exact faith she belonged to, and I felt it was better to keep her on her journey than to become more involved in what is really a very, very personal matter.

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Passion, Tenderness, and Joy

Question:
 
The Alice books were some of my favorite ones to read when growing up. I lived in Joliet, Illinois and met you when I was about eight years old. I religiously read all of the Alice books and enjoyed identifying with an awkward and ordinary girl. The Alice books gave me an understanding that my ordinary life was something special and hope for an exciting future.
Now I’ll Tell You Everything came out during my second year of graduate school when I was 24 years old. It was a tough year for me and reading the Alice book gave me hope that everything was going to be OK. It had been years since I had read an Alice book and I found comfort in knowing that she was still around and had a life after her high school years. I was particularly stuck by the concept of passion, tenderness and joy and how it takes that triple threat for a truly loving relationship.
So many of the events of the final installment struck close to home with me: having a friend who suffered a miscarriage, breaking up with someone and getting back together and struggling to find career fulfillment. This book came to me at the time I needed it most and I thank you for that along with all of the other memories.

Phyllis replied:
 
So many readers have commented on Lester’s definition of love–passion, tenderness and joy–and I’m glad that it meant something to you also–that and a number of other things in the books.  I’ve always found that definition helpful, because you can feel sexual passion for someone, and feel sympathy and understanding for his problems, but if there’s not joy….meaning excitement for a future with him, the ability to talk about anything…then something’s missing.  Thanks so much for your email.

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Cried on the Very First Page

Question:

I was introduced to Alice by my school counselor in 5th grade, she loaned me “Reluctantly Alice,” around September. I found a few more in our school library, however the selection was limited because some had been ruled “inappropriate.” I remember only asking for Alice books for Christmas that year. I got caught up on all the Alice books out at the time within the next year or so, collecting and finding them wherever I could. After I was caught up, I was always in the same grade/age/stage as Alice as a new book came out.
I preordered “Now I’ll Tell You Everything,” and I got it right away after it came out. However, it took me months to bring myself to read it. I didn’t want Alice to end. But this weekend, for whatever reason, I decided to put off my five page essay that I hadn’t even begun (still haven’t) and take the time to read it. I cried on the very first page, even though nothing sad happened on that page, I just couldn’t believe that these were the last 517 pages of Alice. It was just what I needed, Mrs. Naylor. I’ve been in the “I just want to get on with my life and get somewhere and do something” college slump lately, but learning that Alice, practically my best friend, made it through everything, has helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel. So I’m done being in this slump, I feel rejuvenated and ready to take on my last year of college, I feel confident that I will eventually find a man who will love me like Patrick loves Alice, like Ben loved Sylvia. I can take on whatever life throws at me. This was the most relaxing weekend I’ve had in awhile, just spending time with Alice. Although I can’t help but feel that a little part of me just died.
So thank you, and thank you to everyone else you’ve ever thanked for contributing to Alice. You’re books weren’t just about Alice, they were about life, and love, and friends, and family, finding the important things, but mostly, me. Not me specifically, but all the “mes” who have ever read your books. I think I speak for all of the Alices when I thank you for writing books about us, and showing us many things we never even knew about ourselves. Thanks for creating a girl we could laugh with, cry with, love with, and be embarrassed with.
I work with children too young to read Alice (4/5 years old), so I can only hope that somewhere, somehow, someone introduces Alice to my students. I will be forever grateful to Mrs. Branch for introducing me to Alice in 5th grade.

Phyllis replied:

Well, I’m grateful to her also, and to the many teachers and librarians who have connected young girls (and women!  and guys!) to my books. I can remember feeling the same way in college that you do now–that I wanted to get out there and start living life!  Not realizing, of course, that I was already involved right up to my neck in life.  Thanks so much for your wonderful email.  I’ve sent it along to my editor, and know it will make her day, too!

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