Daily Archives: December 30, 2013

From Sex, to Periods, to Heartbreak

Question:
 
I can’t even begin to put into words how I’m feeling right now. It’s almost two in the morning and I just finished Now I’ll Tell You Everything after reading nonstop all day. I guess I’ll start by saying thank you. I started reading the Alice books in 4th grade. I’ll never forget staying up late and reading Starting with Alice and finishing it in a day. Or when I wrote a paper on how Alice was my literary hero. Or how for my birthday my mom ordered me about 8 of the Alice books from Amazon. Alice taught me about everything, from sex, to periods, to heartbreak, to enjoying every minute, and to forget about the embarrassing things because they’re just a part of life. I truly feel like Alice helped shape me into who I am today. I just finished my freshman year of college and I will never again come home to a new Alice book waiting for me. Maybe that’s why I can’t stop crying as I write this! I know you get this all the time, but you’ve done an amazing thing for me and countless other people around the world. You’ve had such a strong impact on my life and I can’t thank you enough for that. I was one of those girls who used to write letters asking your advice all the time. I cringe looking back at my problems but if Alice has taught me anything, it’s to take life in stride and enjoy every moment. I own every single Alice book and I can’t wait to share them with my own children. I wish I could explain better what exactly these books have meant to me but I just can’t put it into words. So I’ll end this with thank you, and happy holidays.

Phyllis replied:
 
I believe you put your feelings into words very well.  I don’t think there is a person alive who doesn’t cringe at some of the things she has said or done.  And I had all of my own embarrassments in mind when I wrote the books, even though I didn’t write about them specifically.  Thanks so much for your email.

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Known Alice Longer than Most of my Closest Friends

Question:

I first read The Agony of Alice in the sixth grade, twelve years ago, after finding it in my middle school library. I just finished Now I’ll Tell You Everything. I read it in one sitting. I’ve known Alice longer than I’ve known most of my closest friends. When I was younger, I was entertained by the books, drawn in by the similarities between Alice, Pamela, Elizabeth, and Gwen’s lives and mine. Now that I’m an adult, I appreciate the books both for the impact they’ve had on me and for how well they handle the coming of age story of a young woman. I don’t know if I’ve ever read another young adult series that handles the trials and tribulations of growing up with so much honesty and compassion. Getting to see Alice as an adult, getting to find out what happened to her and her friends, was a wonderful experience that readers aren’t often afforded. Thank you so much for Alice.
 
Phyllis replied:
 
It is wonderful to hear from an adult–a woman whose appreciation changed as she matured.  That was a great compliment, and I thank you for taking time from your own life to write to me.

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From the UK

Question:
 
I really wanted to write to you because I feel that I owe it to you to try and convey how much your series means to me. I’m now 22 years old and I’ve been reading the Alice series since I was about 11 or 12- your books have sometimes been difficult to get hold of as I live in the UK but nevertheless I have now read all of them! I just finished Now I’ll Tell You Everything and I was thrilled about how everything turned out; I’m so glad you decided to share Alice’s later life. Reading the last book was an emotional rollercoaster for me and made me reflect on so much of my own life too. I have such a clear picture of Alice’s world in my head and I love that I can always pick up one of the books and revisit it. I like to think that I see parts of myself in Alice and each of her friends, and I feel lucky that I was mostly around the same age as Alice when I read each of the books. Should I be lucky enough to have daughters of my own, I will be giving them the Alice series to read in the hope that it gives them as much joy and guidance as it has given me. I wish you nothing but the best for the future, and thank you for making Alice a part of my life.

Phyllis replied:
 
I love that you see parts of yourself in Alice.  I do too.  Thank you so much for writing to me.

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I’ll Miss the Next Alice Book

Question:
 
The first Alice book I read was the Agony Of Alice. At the time I was 12 years old. Now, I’m 19 and already finished with my first semester of college. I just finished Now I’ll Tell You Everything, and I must say that it was such a pleasure getting to see Alice grow up throughout the years and find out where the world takes her. Alice is so relatable in all the books. I just wanted to say, thank you so much for writing such an interesting, page turning series, which made me look for the next book immediately after I finished each one. I will miss looking for the next Alice book. Thank you!
 
Phyllis replied:
 
You started with the book that most girls seem to start with, probably because I wrote that one first, then added the prequels later.  It does seem as though you have grown up with Alice, and I appreciate that you’ve been such a loyal reader.

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Alice Was Crucially Imperfect, as all Role Models Should Be

Question:
 
My relationship with Alice was scrambled at first. I discovered her in third grade, and made the mistake of relying on my elementary school library’s humble selection and random availability. But, while her early years fell out of sequence to me, Alice’s companionship grew increasingly steady. By the time I began filling my gaps with the Alice stocks of multiple public libraries, I felt familiar with Alice, and with her friends, family, and antagonists, on a deeply personal level. Her presence in my development was subtle, but vital. Early on, Alice introduced me to sex, puberty, and loss. Later, she taught me that each of these things are natural, inevitable, and perfectly okay. In a world of well-intended yet dangerously misleading sugarcoating, Alice was honest to me. She was crucially imperfect, as all role models should be. I did not have to agree with her on everything, I did not even have to share her basic tastes and interests, to feel the strong connection that I did. I related to Alice because she questioned, blundered, transitioned, and blossomed parallel to myself.

As I have said, Alice has been a steady force in my life, but a subtle one. I have had extended periods without reading her books, and even ones where her name did not enter my mind. But her influence is very much inextricable. Last week, nearly a decade after meeting Alice, I was accepted into the University of Chicago. Unexpectedly, my mind wandered to Patrick, beloved, brainy Patrick, and I swelled with excitement and pride at the prospect of following in his footsteps.

Ms. Reynolds Naylor, thank you. Your fictional world has made my real one just a bit better.
 
Phyllis replied:
 
My computer is playing tricks on me, and changing the font now and then on emails from readers, but I very much appreciated your letter.  Congratulations on your acceptance into the University of Chicago.  It brings back memories of the time I lived on Hyde Park Boulevard, and worked as a medical receptionist at one of the University hospitals.  Telling me that  Alice was honest, was the highest compliment you could give me.

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Hope I Can Buy the Whole Series

Question:
 
I’ve picked up my first Alice book back in 6th grade, which was 6, almost 7, years ago. The first book I picked up was Outrageously Alice and since then, I’ve been in love with this series. I’ve done some research about this book and found out it was a series so the first thing I did was find out the order. Now so long after I found this blog site for the Alice Mckinley series. I was sure a happy camper ^_^. Since then, I’ve read every book from “Starting with Alice” and now recently finished “Now I’ll Tell You Everything” in one day (I was obsessed, I had to know everything.) I borrowed every Alice book from the library, even when there was a long wait. As soon as I got my hands on one of the books, I couldn’t put it down.

It’s been a great 6-7 years reading about Alice’s life and connecting hers to mine. I sometimes feel like I am Alice, dealing with everything that has happened. There were numerous amounts of times when I cried reading. Every scene was very touching. Since my aunt passed away this year, whenever I think about funerals, I would think about her. It was really sad reading about Mark’s passing. Life is so precious that we don’t know when it can be taken away from us. I cried the most when Patrick’s parents both passed and then Alice’s father Ben passed. It was really sad because I’m only 17 right now and I don’t want to picture my life with out my parents. I’m a very emotional person and literally everything can make me cry, haha.

I hope soon, Barnes and Noble will be about to have the full set of the Alice Mckinley series so I can buy the entire set instead of purchasing every book individually. I currently only own 3 of the books since most of them I just borrow from the library near me. I plan on having the entire set of Alice books for until my last breath and for my own children to read them. I just love her so much. I also hope that this series can turn into an ongoing tv show. I’ve already seen Alice Upside Down, but that was only when she was in the 6th grade. I want to watch a show of Alice Mckinley’s life. I’m positive that if your series can turn into a tv show, everybody who read the books or will be reading your books, will definitely enjoy a television show. 🙂

Thank you for writing such amazing books, I truly enjoyed reading every single book, even the non Alice ones, such as Shiloh books.
 
Phyllis replied:  
 
Thanks so much for your letter.  There was some talk about making the whole series available, and I’ll keep after the publisher about that.

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IT’S HER NORMALITY, NEVER TRYING TO BE ANYTHING SHE’S NOT

 
Question:
 
Dear Mrs. Naylor,
I can’t say that I’ve religiously read every single line of every Alice book in the now complete series, or know and can recite every detail of every character. But I can say, simply and truly, that an Alice book seems to land into my hands at times I need it most in my life. Alice has become more than just a girl in a story to me. The troubles she faces, the joys she experiences, and the lessons she learns are all so real. They soon became our troubles, our joys, and our lessons. When reading an Alice book, I immediately feel at home. As soon as the book is open and the words are there in front of me, it is Alice’s voice, distinct and reassuring, that comes alive in my head, and suddenly, I’m consumed by all that is her life, preparing for yet another journey. Alice is not particularly daring or a high risk taker; she never ditches her modest home in Silver Spring and moves to LA on a whim, marries a rock star, or uses drugs. And my most sincere thank you, Mrs. Naylor, for never turning Alice into a weird alien vampire.
Why did we all keep reading? Though surely this answer is unique to every reader, I can say that what’s most intriguing about Alice to me is her normality, her simple ability to be a friend. Alice never tries to be anything she’s not. Through it all, she stays true to her own nature, and by this alone, she inspires so many to do the same. As Alice grew, we all grew. And we keep on growing. Thank you for making yourself vulnerable to the voice that is Alice, allowing her to control your fingers as you typed.
I once read somewhere: “The days are long, but the years are short.” Before I knew it, I found myself living a new reality. The Alice series is over, it’s my senior year of high school, and the real world seems closer than ever. I’m seventeen years old, but the insecure, wide-eyed and clueless sixth grader I once was is all too painfully familiar. Those beginning years in middle school were the start to a long and miserable time they call the awkward stage, a phenomenon that does not discriminate. It’s something we all go through, but having Alice there to ask Lester and Mr. McKinley the questions we all wonder, and with them treading on ice water with their carefully calculated responses, all gave comfort, I’m sure, to so many girls out there, a task that certainly is not easy to accomplish. Alice changed my life because she taught me the importance of embracing who you are, at every point in your life. Alice’s love and respect she has for herself is something I strive to one day call my own.
Thank you for creating an invaluable, never- changing community of people we can all come back to. If anything, Alice is the one constant in this crazy, fast- paced life we all tend to live. It is the greatest comfort in the world to know Alice turned out okay, marrying Patrick, staying best friends with the people she’s known since childhood, and of course it’s amazing that Lester has triplets! It truly is a beautiful life and story, and a constant reminder that even on the bleakest of days and through the rough patches, eventually things get better, and life has a way of working itself out.
I like to think that Alice is out there somewhere, if not only in our hearts. We’ve all met an Alice before, or are blessed to have an Alice as our own best friend, mother, sister, or daughter. We all cheer on Alice who in some ways or another embodies us all because in the simplest of terms, she is human and embraces this very fact, learning from her mistakes and trying her best to be the best person she can be. Because of Alice we learned and keep learning that it is okay to be 100% of ourselves, 100% of the time.
A final thank you for giving us the gift that is Alice, a gift that will forever keep on giving so long as we make time in our lives to again relish in the adventures of an ordinary, simple girl who shares all of her secrets. I hope one day, years down the line, I can still remember the girl I am now, who after she reads something so moving, she shares her experience with the person who wrote it.
Let us all be vulnerable, and do our best to make the best out of life, for Alice.

Phyllis replied:

Thank you for your email, written, I know, from the heart.  Yes, I always wanted Alice to be a completely average girl, never aspiring to be a Hollywood star, nor having to experience drugs.  There are so many girls out there just like her, finding out what they enjoy most and what they do best, and then figuring out how to incorporate that into their work or their lives.

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