From a Librarian

Question:
 
Dear Phyllis Reynolds Naylor,
 
Just as Alice wanted a special place, no interruptions, and all the time in the world to share her first intimate moments with someone she loved, so I waited to savor your final book in the Alice series, knowing that once I’d opened the cover I would want to read nonstop all the way through.

Alice books arrived on my desk fifteen years ago when I first started doing outreach for the library and I immediately liked this motherless girl who had the “uncool” teacher and who lived through embarrassing shopping moments with her brother. Alice was sometimes a reminder of the adolescent girl still inside me and other times of my nieces and whatever current dramas they were going through. It wasn’t until Now I’ll Tell You Everything that “Alice-world” really caught up with the grown-up me. With every chapter I found myself reaching for the Kleenex box more and more.

It makes sense that the earlier Alice books cover just a portion of each year. At twelve, school years take forever and it seems like an eternity until high school graduation. And college beyond? Phew! I’m glad you’ve used this last book to describe events in the decades that followed Alice’s high school graduation. Life can fly by! For me, it seems as though the years between forty and fifty were gone in a blink and now I’m fifty-seven. I’ve held my dad’s hand in hospital when we were shocked to learn he needed a by-pass and a valve replacement – all those worn car parts – and cried in disbelief when they told us he’d died from complications of the surgery. I was in Mom’s bedroom with the paramedics and handed them the POLST form – DNR – and watched as they unplugged the EKG machine and let her be in peace. You can bet I had a tissue in hand through the whole chapter about Alice and her father’s death!

Some other things I really liked about this book:

1) You set part of the book in Eugene, Oregon, and in California. Alice and her friends spent far too little time in Yosemite, but at least she got there. I’ve read so many books which feature summers in Maine, so hooray for adventures on the West Coast!

2) Every character has to meet challenges, sometimes with valor, sometimes clumsily. Choices and conversations seemed so real. Teen readers can learn that friends who share a lot can each build very different grown-up lives, move away, have kids or not, marry, divorce, and change careers. I was happy to see that Alice, her brother and friends all had lives that shaped up differently from one another yet they could still find connections to hold them together. The best of all possible worlds, where both old and new can have a place.

3) The gay gals and their Idaho bed & breakfast. Hah! That moving van joke – so true! Glad their connection to the gang was reestablished. Very timely with what’s going on in our country. Alice never mentions how lucky she is that her father and aunt & uncle could attend her & Patrick’s wedding, but that for a lot of couples who recently married in Washington or California, dear parents and grandparents didn’t live long enough to see that happy day.

Teachers tell me that some boys read the Alice stories to understand how girls think. Bravo! What a great way for adolescent boys to also learn about bras, periods, anatomy, and sex education.

Thanks so much for the Alice series. I know when I recommend them to middle schoolers, it’s likely they’ll have years of good reading ahead of them.

Phyllis replied:
 
Thank you so much for taking time from your own busy schedule to write to me.  It’s wonderful to hear how the Alice books are being received in schools and libraries, and I too have discovered boys who read them to get a better understanding of girls. 

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