Alice #5 — covering the month of April in Alice’s seventh grade year.
Alice’s old-fashioned Aunt Sally tells Alice that she’s almost thirteen, and therefore has to assume the role of the Woman of the House, and all the responsibilities that come with it. This creates a lot of struggles for Alice and her family which culminate in Alice throwing a disastrous birthday party for her dad.
Alice’s struggles here highlight the silliness of traditional gender roles, especially in non-traditional families. Ben and Lester teach Alice that running a home is a team event, and that this responsibility shouldn’t fall on Alice just because she’s the woman, and she feels pressure to be the Woman of the House. Alice’s dad tells her “all you have to be is twelve”.
This is also one of the few books in the series I can find no record of having been challenged or banned, but I would be surprised if it hasn’t been on some list, somewhere. The frank discussions of both sexual development and suicide seem like they would anger certain types of parents.
The ending gets really serious really quickly. Denise Whitlock, the girl who had previously bullied Alice, commits suicide. Alice had recently befriended Denise, even inviting her to her dad’s birthday party. While she’s there, Denise gives Alice a box of her most treasured possessions, but Alice, being twelve and very innocent, doesn’t recognize this as being a classic warning sign. Her struggle with understanding Denise’s actions are realistic for someone of her age.
- This is another one of the books I remember very clearly from when I was a kid. Especially Denise’s story-line and the letter Alice writes herself. Having read the final book in the series, I enjoyed the closure provided by the time capsule scene, even if it’s a little cheesy.
- A mostly Patrick-less book, which I like. In the few scenes he’s in he comes off as a realistically clueless boy, rather than the annoyingly well-traveled, pseudo-adult he becomes later in the series.
- The boys naming the girls breasts after states thing is still super weird to me, but I guess it matches the emotional maturity of your average seventh-grade boy.
- The juxtaposition of Alice’s silly problems (party planning, boys, etc.) compared with Denise’s very serious ones highlights just how lucky Alice is to have the family and friends she has. Good character development here.