I recently read Shelf Discovery, which was (DUH) great. If you are a lady (and you probably are, if you’re reading this) and you read a lot as a girl (once again, you probably did), you’ll love this book. It got me thinking, though, about how I never hear anyone talk about some of my favorite books from when I was a kid. Sure, everyone loves Lois Lowry, but no one ever mentions her Anastasia series. Her writer dad! Her artist mom! Her weird genius brother, Sam! The time she wanted her name on her shirt but it was too long! There’s a lot to say about Anastasia, but that’s not the point right now. Right now, I want to talk about Alice.
The most influential books of my childhood were by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, and they were about a girl named Alice McKinley. Alice is starting the sixth grade when the series begins, and as of now, she’s in her senior year of high school. Yes, I still read these, and yes, I know that a new one comes out every May. Whatever!
Alice is one of the most interesting characters in young adult fiction, and it pains me that no one ever mentions her! Everyone’s all “The Giver” this and “A Wrinkle in Time” that. But Alice was something else. Her mom died when she was little, so she lives with her dad and her (hot despite the name) older brother, Lester. She is constantly embarrassed, which I know is what instantly attracted me. I think a lot of young girls live in a perpetual state of misery and mortification, and Alice is incredibly easy to relate to. Take this passage, from The Agony of Alice, the first book in the series:
“I found a copy of a poem I had written in third grade:
There are lots of drops in the ocean,
There are lots of stars in the blue;
But in the whole state of Maryland,
There’s only one person like you.
I stopped worrying about the crayons and cringed at the poem. Do you know who I wrote it for? My father? My grandfather? Aunt Sally? The milkman, when the company stopped home deliveries. Because he looked so sad when he told us. I hardly even knew him.
The reason I worry about my mind is that as soon as I remembered the milkman, I wondered if he was still alive, and somewhere, deep inside me, I sort of hoped he wasn’t. I didn’t want anybody remembering that poem.”
Now if that’s not the best thing you’ve ever read, I don’t even want to hear it. I still feel like that sometimes. I think we’ve all written a few poems to the milkman in our time.
I love these books so much, and since I have no one to talk about them with, I decided to reread the series and write about it here. I managed to find the cover I read as a kid for the first book in the series:
Here are some things I’m excited to read again:
-Lester’s two girlfriends, Marilyn and Crystal!
-the train ride where Pamela was groped!
-when Patrick took Alice to that nice restaurant and she put the rose between her teeth!
-the stupid principal Sylvia was dating!
-the letter from their mom Lester thought he lost…it still makes me sad to think about it!