Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

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*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
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*        = Good, with reservations


***Alice, I Think

by Susan Juby

Reviewed October 2, 2003.
HarperTempest,  New York, 2003. Published in a different form in Canada, 2000.  290 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (JF JUB).

When I opened this book at the library, I began laughing immediately and reading bits to the people around me.  Here are some choice bits from the beginning:

“I blame it all on The Hobbit.  That, and my supportive home life.

“I grew up in one of those loving families that fail to prepare a person for real life.  When I was little, my parents, especially my mother, encouraged me to be creative.  She taught me to sing and dance, preferably on a table so everyone could get a good look….

“My parents didn’t send me to kindergarten, because they said they didn’t feel ready yet.  But then my brother, MacGregor, was born, and they had to spread around their urge to overprotect.  So off I went for the first day of first grade, where I quickly discovered that everyone else had bonded and figured out the rules the year before.  My next discovery was that kids don’t like other kids who think they are hobbits, especially kids who break into song and dance without any warning.  In fact, as it turned out, there is probably no worse thing to be in first grade than a newcomer who thinks she’s a hobbit.

“Parenting Rule No. 1:  Don’t send your kids to school dressed like a character from a fantasy book unless that kid has a lot of friends who also dress like fantasy characters.”

So Alice gets home-schooled for the next several years.  As the book opens, she’s contemplating starting high school and wondering how she can possibly fit in.

Unfortunately, by reading the beginning out loud to my sister, who was visiting, I got her interested enough to read it.  Then I had to endure her reading it and chuckling out loud to herself before I could have a turn at it.

When I did read it, I’m afraid the book didn’t quite live up to its promise.  The author has a wildly funny style.  Even the author blurb at the back of the book is funny!

Unfortunately, the book didn’t have much of a plot.  Alice makes it to school, and that turns out to be no big deal.  She’s put in an “Alternative” High School, though it’s not completely clear why.  Later, without a lot of motivation, she goes from trying for “Some sort of boy-girl interaction” to trying to get a guy she’s just met to have sex with her.  That episode seemed rather more sad and pathetic than funny.  (It also makes me hesitate to recommend the book to younger readers who would otherwise have loved it.)  Finally, the book just stops.

So, I’m giving this one a mixed review.  I absolutely love the author’s style.  She’s writes wildly funny, delightful stuff.  I’m definitely going to be watching for anything else she writes.  With a stronger plot, this could have been one of my favorite books.  As it is, I do recommend it for some good reading and a lot of laughs.  I can’t wait to read her next book!

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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