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WIB: Oct 20-26 (NaBlo: Day 2)

November 2, 2013

I have only two books to discuss.  I didn’t finish anything this past week.  I read, but only one book, and I still have forty pages left, and I have to switch to my book club selection because I only have so long with the movie version and it came in sooner than I expected.  You can’t discuss Books to Movies month in your book club without seeing the movie too, right?  So.

The final book in Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Alice series came out: Now I’ll Tell You Everything.  As I’ve said before, I first read the Alice series in grad school when we were doing either children’s lit or banned books or both.  I think banned books within children’s lit.  The series blew me away, and despite being a woman in my late 20s, I read every single one, using them not really for any nostalgia purposes but as a barometer for my daughter’s growth as a person (mostly as a female person) and to calm myself as a parent.  Alice loses her mom at a young age and spends a long time getting into Anne of Green Gables-level modern-day scrapes and asking embarrassing questions of her dad and brother, thinking that these would have been of course answered by her mother, had she not lived.  She feels completely inept at being a girl, at first, especially surrounded by guys, and as guideless as we all are.  So she’s not just a character; she becomes that guide.  This is something I feel like most kids should have, although I think boys will be disinclined to read the series unless they’re actively looking for something behind the scenes.

Alice is never perfect, but she tries her best, and her friends grow with her and get into all sorts of scrapes as well, that at some point stop being scrapes and start being life experiences.  A friend gets pregnant in high school.  They have to deal with bullying, racism–the later, high school books sometimes have a feeling of After School Specials, but maybe they all did and I was more willing to give the younger ones a pass.  Because the Alice series is a guidebook, it’s also a book of lessons, something I just said recently we need more of in J-lit.  When you need to figure out how to cope with something, you read an Alice book.

So that brings us to the new one: Now I’ll Tell You Everything.  This book takes us from college to Alice’s sixtieth year.  SIXTIETH.  That’s pretty amazing.  And of course, it’s a rush job.  The first term of college is the slowest, college taking up a huge chunk of the book, and then ZOOM!  You’re off through a life of “here’s how you do it,” thanks to Guidebook Alice.  And here’s the thing: I think it works especially well because that’s how adults see time.  Everything stretches out in childhood and suddenly LOOK IT’S NOVEMBER 2013, LAST TIME I WROTE DOWN THE DATE IT WAS 2010, OR IT JUST FEELS THAT WAY.  Now I’m thirty-six, and the years pass so quickly, it feels like.  Every day is starting to feel like Groundhog’s Day in its sameness.  It never felt that way in high school.

Alice makes some good life choices; Alice has some kids.  Alice has a career, and of course feels guilty about how she can’t balance everything equally.  Alice gets older, and she and her husband have a Big Talk about the line between flirting and cheating.  See what I mean about a guidebook?  The book practically says, “Decide where you’re drawing the line early, or else you’ll end up hurt and things will be stupidly, unnecessarily complicated.”  Alice settles into being a parent and the book takes it for granted, because parents take it for granted.

And then she’s sixty, and she and her friends gather together to open their old time capsule, and I’d already had my big sobbing breakdown earlier in the book (not going to tell you where; it blind-sided me and I’m not taking that away from you, reader), but I ended teary and happy and fulfilled.  I’ve noticed not everyone (on Goodreads) feels like the book does what it should, but I also noticed they were younger-than-me readers who complained about the pace.  They’ll understand in time.

I loved this book, I loved this series, and I really think every girl should read it, and every woman too.

*

In actual nostalgia reading, I read Once Upon a Time, the second volume of the Collier’s Junior Classics series, a series that sat on the bottom shelf of my grandparents’ book case when I was growing up.  The thing is, when we moved when I was seven, my cousin took the series with him, I think, and then I had less access to it even though we were in the same house, because it wasn’t on a shared shelf.  But if that’s true, then I was pretty much only reading it up until around the time I was eight or nine, and these stories are so familiar, for the most part, that I couldn’t tell you if I remember reading them there or in another form.  A lot of them just felt vaguely familiar to me.  I guess my reading history really starts at a slightly older age, when we lived in our own place.  After all, most of the time I had easy access to those books, I wasn’t old enough to read them.

But it’s a good collection, story-like rather than picture-book-like, and the illustrations are old-fashioned (bordering on trippy) and often entirely inaccurate.  The selections are by country, which is very cool.  Some of the stories are very very different based on what part of the world they came from.  Some seem older; some are for very young children indeed.  The “modern” fairy tale section is kinda like, “Bwuh?”  But I can see myself reading most of the book to my grandkids, if I have any.  Not sure I’m going to rush to read the other volumes right now, even if I had the time, which I certainly do not.

*

And that was my Week in Books.  Off to do some NaNoing.

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