________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 21 . . . .June 24, 2005


Alice MacLeod, Realist at Last.

Susan Juby.
Toronto, ON: HarperCollins, 2005.
260 pp., pbk., $15.99.
ISBN 0-00-639266-0.

Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.

Review by Jocelyn A. Dimm.

**** /4



I knew Goose would enjoy driving around with me because I got my learner's permit last week, and I'm in that phase where I'm still learning a lot, and driving with me is really exciting...I turned onto this little road so we wouldn't get run over by a logging truck, but I must have turned too sharply and then overcorrected because we somehow ended up sliding off the gravel track into a shallow ditch. I put the car in park, turned off the ignition, and listened to the engine tick angrily in front of us.

"We're here," I said.


The excerpt above is as good a description as any for how Alice arrives in most every scene, with a little mayhem, a lot of angst, and a drama on every page. Following in the gravel track of the first two books in this series, Juby continues to paint the reader a crazy picture of Alice MacLeod, home school and alternative school survivor, very diverse, eccentric 16-year-old always preparing for the next adventure of her life.

     This time around Alice is about to graduate, her boyfriend, Goose moves to Scotland, and Alice's mother goes to jail for staging an unwelcome environmental protest. The main focus (if there really is one) is the question of how Alice's family will survive with Mom in jail, or possibly, how Alice will simply survive. As her brother, MacGregor, escapes to the neighbours, Alice and her father search for jobs. Looking for work and missing her boyfriend, Alice devotes time to putting together a unique thrift shop wardrobe and becoming a scriptwriter. Juby has these attempts at scriptwriting interrupt the pages of the novel periodically to give the reader a glimpse into Alice's creation. Although quite amusing at first, full of pop culture references, they seem to be a bit forced by the last third of the novel.

     This novel, part of the Alice MacLeod trilogy, is a bit calmer than the other two (Alice, I Think, and Miss Smithers), but it still presents the reader with the teenage Canadian Bridget Jones surviving the young adult years in small-town Smithers, BC. Alice's whirlwind of jobs includes being a waitress at a Chinese food restaurant, a hiking guide at a weekend camp, and clerking part-time at a knitting shop. Of course, she meets boys, and to add to the romantic diversity, her good friend and cousin, George (a girl) hooks up with another girl.

     Who will read this novel? Just about anyone who has read the other two, and possibly every teenage girl in Smithers or near Smithers, BC. Juby has managed another wild and crazy romp, and, just when the reader might consider tiring of the antics, she throws in a catcher, like the following:

Saturday, July 31

The great thing about Costco muffins is that one pretty much does you for the whole day. MacGregor and I did a test this morning. We each ate one at 9:00 A.M. and we're waiting to see when we will get hungry again. It's 7:15 P.M. and no signs of hunger yet!

     You find yourself laughing out loud and reading on. Many issues abound in this novel: teen sex, incarceration, gay adults, gay teenagers, etc. Alice manages to make some decent choices, even if her life is complicated and a bit on the "fairy tale" side. As an aside, if anyone remembers the old "Dharma and Greg" series on TV, Alice could have been Dharma as a teenager.

     The novel is creative and allows readers to explore the trials and tribulations of the teen world through a chaotic mess that is well written and, needless to say, will be well read. After this Alice installment though, I hope Juby moves on to other writing projects worthy of one with such natural wit.

Highly Recommended.

Jocelyn A. Dimm is a sessional instructor and a PhD Candidate at the University of Victoria where she teaches drama education and young adult literature in the Faculty of Education.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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