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.)
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.