A book review for parents
This fiction book is the 16th book in the "Alice" series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor and is published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.
Dangerously Alice is written for ages 14 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Sixteen-year-old Alice McKinley resents the fact that a few of her classmates have nicknamed her MGT (Miss Goody Two-shoes). Concerned that they may be right, she decides to try to increase the excitement factor in her life by dating a "fast" boy named Tony, sneaking out of the house to write an exposé for the school paper and staging a protest at school, among other things. Along the way, she works through issues with her stepmother, frequently visits a friend with leukemia and contemplates her feelings about when is the right time to have sex. Her friend's involvement in a near-fatal drunk driving crash helps her gain additional perspective on the value of living each day as if it were the last.
Alice infrequently attends church with her dad and stepmom and mentions with disdain a class she took there about sexuality. After she witnesses her dad and stepmom having sex, she tells her brother she wishes she could confess to a priest; he offers her a tongue-in-cheek absolution by saying, "Go and sin no more." Alice's Catholic friend Liz mentions praying for someone. A minor character contemplates joining the priesthood. Alice is surprised when a priest agrees to let her and Liz (posing as runaways) sleep at his parish rather than turning them out on the street. A concerned mother (Mrs. Shoates) objects when her daughter is forced to give a speech in favor of pre-marital sex; the woman comes across as hostile and close-minded, and the students who rally against her objections are considered heroes.
Alice's widower dad is a caring father who worries about his daughter's safety. His new wife, Sylvia, Alice's former teacher, hides some of Alice's more questionable actions from Dad to keep his stress level down and to maintain better relations with her stepdaughter. Aunt Sally appears silly and old-fashioned when she is shocked and unhappy to learn her daughter (Alice's cousin, Carol) is living with a boyfriend. Mrs. Cary, Alice's speech teacher, is depicted as a trailblazing educator when she makes her class write speeches about both sides of a controversial issue. She appears calm and rational in contrast to the militant, overbearing Mrs. Shoates.
Other Belief Systems
On a day that's going right for Alice, she says it feels as if the gods have prepared the way.
Language includes b--ch, s---, p-ssed and a form of the f-word.
Dangerously Alice is brimming with sexuality, from numerous off-handed conversations between teens to frank discussions (even with many adults) indicating sex is just what people do when they reach a certain age. Alice accidentally witnesses her dad and stepmother having sex. Her older, unmarried brother gives a girl sexy underwear for Christmas. Alice's cousin tries to figure out how to tell her parents she's living with a man. Alice engages in some intense and graphic foreplay with an older boy. She contemplates going "all the way" but decides against it. The teen characters attend naked parties, praise each other when they increase their sexual experience and discuss the merits of living with someone before marrying. Virginity is considered embarrassing and unrealistic.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- What were some of the events in this book that made Alice take notice of the brevity and frailty of life?
What did you think about the conclusions she came to regarding taking risks and making every day count?
- What did you think about Alice's exposé on teen runaways?
Was her undercover work too dangerous, or was it a risk worth taking to help kids understand the problem?
- How did you feel when Sylvia talked about the worry Alice's father had experienced the night of Brian's crash?
Do you know how we would feel if we thought you were in danger?
- What did you think of the graphic scenes between Alice and Tony?
They didn't actually have intercourse, so were their actions OK?
What is God's perspective about the physical side of relationships?
Why does He have rules about such things?
- How did you feel about the portrayal of Jennifer, the girl who gave the speech on virginity and her mother?
How does that make you feel about being open about your beliefs with others?
How has the media made Christians seem bigoted, narrow-minded, ignorant or reactionary?
Why do some people react critically to Christians?
- If Alice and God sat down for coffee, what do you think He would want to say to her?
How can we encourage our friends to follow God's ways without being preachy?
Alice's friend Brian drinks and later that evening, gets into a serious alcohol-related accident. Parents could take this opportunity to discuss the dangers of drunk driving and underage drinking.
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.