“What I’ve decided about life is this: If you don’t have a mother, you need a sister. And if you don’t have a sister, you need a bulletin board” (Naylor, 1992, p.1).
Alice McKinley, seventh grader, lives with her father and older brother Lester. Her mother died when she was little, and she doesn’t have a sister. However, Alice takes comfort in the women that are around her (the women who work at her father’s store, Lester’s girlfriend, etc.) and in the idea that she belongs to a larger, worldwide Sisterhood. Alice also takes comfort in belonging at school. Alice joins the All-Stars Fan Club as well as the earring club (even though she doesn’t find either of those particularly interesting), and soon becomes one of the Famous Eight, a group of popular seventh graders. Eventually, however, Alice discovers that being envied isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. She begins to question her decisions and asks herself, “whose life was this, anyway?” (Naylor, 1992, p.114).
Phyllis Reynolds Naylor has done it again! All But Alice is a great book for tweens. In All But Alice, Alice McKinley experiences life as one of the Famous Eight, a popular seventh grade clique. Initially, Alice basks in the attention she receives; “I couldn’t believe I was one of the Beautiful People,” she says. “I mean, here I was, Alice McKinley, looking gorgeous, laughing my tinkling laugh, with my gorgeous white teeth showing through my ruby red lips, and these tiny red ribbons on my earrings highlighting the pink in my cheeks” (Naylor, 1992, p.87). However, Alice soon realizes that she’s making decisions based on what others want her to do, not on what she wants to do. Here, Naylor touches upon an issue very relevant to tweens: cliques. Like many tweens, Alice gets caught up in cliquey behavior. Her experience is a good example for readers, however, as she eventually decides to follow her own instincts.
Genre: contemporary realistic
Reading/interest level: ages 9 to 12
Similar titles: Alice in April by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Awards & nominations:
ALA Notable Children’s Books,
IRA/CBC Children’s Choices,
School Library Journal Best Books of the Year