Saturday, May 10, 2014

Reading: Now I'll Tell You Eveything (The FINAL Book in the Alice McKinley Series)

The FINAL Alice book published in 2013
Courtesy of  

As soon as I finished reading Now I'll Tell You Everything, the final book in the Alice McKinley series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, it started to rain.  Not just metaphorically but literally.  Along with the rain came hail pounding at the window and strong gusts of wind stirring up mini-hurricanes on the Chesapeake Bay outside my patio.  How timely this rainstorm came to align perfectly with my conclusion of the Alice series, a set of books that I have been reading since I was thirteen years old.

The series began in 1985 and includes twenty-eight follow-up books that focus on Alice and her life in Bethesda, Maryland, with her father, the manager of a music store, and older brother, Lester.  Along with her two best friends, Pamela and Elizabeth, Alice explores the ins-and-outs of growing up, asks the questions that everybody wonders but dares not say, experiences her fair share of awkward and embarrassing life stories, and through it all, comforts her readers, young and old.  

Besides being well-written, fast-paced, humorous, and super relatable, the Alice series made me feel like I had three best friends across the country.   They weren't fantastical superheroes, or girls being chased down by werewolves or hungry vampires, or famous celebrities hopping from one party to the next.  Instead, they were seemingly regular kids navigating the throes of middle school, and then high school, with Naylor spending chapters and pages of books devoted to poolside conversations, dressing room horrors, or sibling banter. 

But in Now I'll Tell You Everything, there is not a lot of time devoted to one particular thing, as this book follows Alice from her first day as a college freshman to a sixty-something wife and grandmother.  On the one hand, I like knowing how Alice's future unfolds and how it mimics the Alice in the past book.  Sixty-year-old Alice shares, "I wanted to write some books about what it was like to grow up without a mother and about all the things Dad and Lester had to teach me.  I wanted my children and grandchildren to know that no matter when you are born or where you life, happiness and disappointments have the same flavors the world over.  I think that Mom, and the girl I was back in seventh grade, would have been pleased."  And while the book concludes in a nicely, neatly sealed way, I almost wish I didn't know so much.

Most of the Alice books span four months and spend more time developing character and detailing certain events for pages and chapters!  With this book covering over forty years in just over 500 pages, there are many details that are left out.  It almost reads like a summary of Alice's life after high school.  Perhaps this was done as a promise Naylor made to fans: that she would reveal everything about Alice!  Perhaps this parallels the common thought that life just seems to go faster as people get older, and with the blink of an eye, Alice transforms from an eager college freshman at the University of Maryland to an eager grandmother.

As a fan of Alice McKinley, I am sad to see the series end.  I feel antiquated, and to console myself after the conclusion of this series (a literary crisis if I've ever known one), I am considering making a purchase of every single Alice book ever written from Amazon.  (They all have real pretty covers now, too.)  Many of the events in the final book warmed my heart, and I appreciated how the author brought up several details that had occurred in past books to show how moments that occur when we are young  can still impact us in the future.  (There's Patrick promising to call Alice on her twenty-first birthday, for example, or the memory of Alice meeting Patrick for the first time in an embarrassing moment at The Gap.)  Yet, like time itself, I wish this book would have slowed down and spent more time focusing on Alice in college.  I would have been content with the series concluding with Alice as an early twenty-something and then could have imagined the rest of our lives unfolding together.  But I think I'm just sad to let go of the dear friends I've known for so long. 

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