“In seventh grade, you grow backwards. In sixth, I kept a list of all the things I learned that showed I was growing up, and another of all the stupid, embarrassing things I did that proved I wasn’t. Most of the time they were about even. If I still kept a record of all I’ve done, my ‘backwards’ list would run right off the page” (Naylor, 2000, p.1).
Alice McKinley is in junior high now and has given herself one goal: to make it through seventh grade with everyone liking her. This, however, proves to be more difficult than expected. For one, Denise “Mack-Truck” Whitlock, the school bully, has singled out Alice to pick on. And though they promised to remain best friends forever, it seems every other week either Elizabeth or Pamela isn’t speaking to her! Despite her shaky start, however, Alice survives her first semester as a junior high student and is even able to come up with seven good things about seventh grade to cancel out the seven bad!
Reluctantly Alice is another fantastic installment in the “Alice” series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor! Now in junior high, Alice is “at the bottom of the ladder again” (Naylor, 2000, p.4) and is being bullied by Denise “Mack-Truck” Whitlock. I think it was not only smart but also responsible of Naylor to introduce the issue of bullying in this novel as bullying is a common problem among tweens today. By reading about Alice being bullied, tweens experiencing the same issues will hopefully come to understand that they are not alone. What was most impressive, however, was they way in which Alice handles being bullied. Alice doesn’t react to Denise’s behavior and seeks the advice of her family. In the end, what stops Denise’s bullying is a compassionate move on Alice’s part. Alice chooses Denise as the subject of her biography assignment for language arts when she senses Denise’s fear of being chosen last. This was such a tender, wonderful moment and an excellent example of compassion and kindness for tweens.
Genre: contemporary realistic
Reading/interest level: ages 9 to 12
Similar titles: All But Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Awards: School Library Journal Best Books of the Year