Friday, November 23, 2012

Alice on Board, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Now that the girls have graduated from High School, Alice is realizing that they will soon part and go off in different directions.  But for one more summer, they will be together, working on a cruise ship in the Chesapeake Bay.  It's hard work, but Alice gets to see a lot of scenery and they have some adventures.  Pamela is dealing with her needy mother, Gwen is trying out a new romance, and Alice herself is mostly fretting over Patrick and whether she is being too clingy.

It's another installment in Naylor's long-running series.  Alice's adventures aren't quite as cute as before and the books tend to read like serial installments, rather than as themed books, but Alice remains an interesting young woman (if, for no other reason, than there's been so much written about her).  Naylor is not quite in touch with the technology that is the foundation of adolescence (confusing Facebook with some sort of chat room or Craigslist) anymore and her writing style seems more grandmotherly, but this gives the books an innocent charm that make them popular with younger readers.  This particular installment is a bit more action-packed than some of the previous ones, but notably thinner on emotions, feelings, and getting inside Alice's head.

In many ways, this is probably my greatest reservation about the series.  Having tracked every little bit of Alice's life for 12+ years, we have a wonderful opportunity to explore why she feels like she does.  Occasionally, Alice lets down her guard and Naylor explores an idea briefly (in this example, there's a tease where Alice wonders if her clingy feelings are somehow tied to losing her mother when she was little), but the ideas are dropped just as quickly as they appear.  That makes the books overall superficial and frustrating.  Sure, we know when she got her first bra, had her first period, and lost her virginity, but not that much about her anxieties and her dreams.  A person's made up of more than anecdotes and milestones.

[Note:  This was supposed to be the very last book in the series, but apparently Naylor decided that she needed to do another one, so look forward to Always Alice, sometime in 2013.]

No comments: