Sunday, May 29, 2005

Alice On Her Way, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

The Alice series was one of the first YA books I read when I started my adult rediscovery of children's books....

The charming part of the series is that Naylor takes us very slowly through the life of a young woman growing up in Bethesda, giving us the continuity of her experiences and friends, and doing so at only a few months at a time. Counting the prequels, we've watched Alice grow from 8 to 16, and this is simply the latest continuation of her life.

In Alice On Her Way, Alice McKinley takes a school trip to NYC, falls in love with Sam and then decides to break up with him, goes through a church-sponsored sex education class, and gets her driver's license. There's some realizations of her new life with a step mother and watching her older brother grow a more independent life.

When I first started reading the books, they seems so amazingly revealing and revolutionary, but I really didn't know much about the genre. Now that I've read more, they are not nearly as appealing anymore. Naylor, like Judy Blume, has a big mission to talk about sex as much as she can. And while teens are interested in the subject, Naylor really has a crusade on -- one which even her protagonist seems to find a bit over the top! And while Naylor has her story up to date (with the girls IM'ing each other, for example), there's a certain flat innocence to the story. In Alice's world, there are no metal detectors in schools and no drugs. There is sex, of course, but it has an innocence to it, that belies reality even in a posh suburb like Bethesda. Again, YA lit has gotten grittier and it is hard to imagine teens reading these books. Maybe for the pre-teen market, Alice would still be fun.

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