ACHINGLY ALICE BY PHYLLIS REYNOLDS NAYLOR
Happy Banned Books Week! I was not feeling this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic, so how about a review on one of the most banned books in America?
The winter of Alice’s eighth grade year poses a whole new set of challenges and excitements. As the title suggests, Alice finds herself aching in a multitude of ways. She desperately wants her dad and favorite teacher, Miss Summers, to tie the knot, but Miss Summers is torn between Alice’s dad and an old flame (who just happens to be the middle school vice principal, Mr. Sorringer).
While Alice is at first angry at Miss Summers, she soon finds herself feeling a little more sympathy when Alice herself is unsure about wanting to stay with her boyfriend Patrick when she finds herself attracted to a different guy in her Camera Club. She struggles between her attachment to Patrick while wanting to maintain her independence and explore other options.
I generally think the Alice books are pretty feminist in nature, but there are definitely some moments that make me shake my head. Alice’s obsession with her dad marrying Miss Summers is particularly out of control in this book — she goes as far as to lie to Miss Summers about seeing Mr. Sorringer out with another woman, which blows up in her face later. She also fantasizes that Miss Summers should quit her job teaching in order to become a wife to Ben and a mother to Alice, as if these two are mutually exclusive. Part of this is Alice’s desperation to have a ‘normal’ family again (Alice’s mom was a homemaker), but this underlying message of traditional gender roles bothers me.
I’m pretty exited that Miss Summers has decided to move to England for a year, for my sake as well as her’s. Alice seriously needed to stop obsessing over her dad’s love life, and I’m sick of reading about it.
Not one of the strongest books in the series, but it moves the plot along at a decent page and clears the way for brighter installments ahead.