The Agony of Alice
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The Agony of Alice

4.6 40
by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
     
 

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Life, Alice McKinley feels, is just one big embarrassment. Here she is, about to be a teenager and she doesn't know how. It's worse for her than for anyone else, she believes, because she has no role model. Her mother has been dead for years. Help and advice can only come from her father, manager of a music store, and her nineteen-year-old brother, who is a slob.

Overview

Life, Alice McKinley feels, is just one big embarrassment. Here she is, about to be a teenager and she doesn't know how. It's worse for her than for anyone else, she believes, because she has no role model. Her mother has been dead for years. Help and advice can only come from her father, manager of a music store, and her nineteen-year-old brother, who is a slob. What do they know about being a teen age girl?

What she needs, Alice decides, is a gorgeous woman who does everything right, as a roadmap, so to speak. If only she finds herself, when school begins, in the classroom of the beautiful sixth-grade teacher, Miss Cole, her troubles will be over. Unfortunately, she draws the homely, pear-shaped Mrs. Plotkin. One of Mrs. Plotkin's first assignments is for each member of the class to keep a journal of their thoughts and feelings. Alice calls hers "The Agony of Alice," and in it she records all the embarrassing things that happen to her.

Through the school year, Alice has lots to record. She also comes to know the lovely Miss Cole, as well as Mrs. Plotkin. And she meets an aunt and a female cousin whom she has not really known before. Out of all this, to her amazement, comes a role model — one that she would never have accepted before she made a few very important discoveries on her own, things no roadmap could have shown her. Alice moves on, ready to be a wise teenager.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Haley Maness
At the start of the 6th grade Alice finds herself in a new town with many new opportunities. All Alice is looking for is a strong female role model to help her through the changes ahead, after losing her mother at a young age. Alice, like many sixth graders, is easily embarrassed, and is especially embarrassed when she is put in old, grumpy Mrs. Plotkin's class. She takes this and many other random twists of fate personally. Self-conscious Alice is a very realistic and relatable character. A motif throughout this story is religion. Alice is continually praying to Catholic saints, and hopes that her prayers will be answered despite her being a Methodist. A succession of embarrassing moments throughout the novel will spark laughter among young readers. This new paperback edition of the popular "Alice" series with cheerful cover art will be a great addition to the bookshelves of middle schoolers. Reviewer: Haley Maness
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Alice seeks a role model and keeps a journal of life's embarrassments; for a class project, she plans her wedding. Ages 9-13. (Aug.)
School Library Journal
Gr 5-7- Alice's mother died when she was four. Now a sixth grader, she finds her all-male household no help with the process of growing up female. Through a series of incidents both hilarious and poignant, Alice searches for a female to help her cope with her adolescent anxieties. At first repulsed by her physically unattractive teacher, Mrs. Plotkin, Alice gradually realizes that although surrounded by a variety of role models, it is kind, sensitive Mrs. Plotkin who she wants to be like. The lively style exhibits a deft touch at capturing the essence of an endearing heroine growing up without a mother. Alice's forthcoming fans will agonize with her and await her further adventures. Caroline Ward Romans, Vermont Department of Libraries, Montpelier
From the Publisher
"A wonderfully funny and touching story." - Booklist, starred review

"Both hilarious and poignant...The lively style [captures] the essence of an endearing heroine." - School Library Journal, starred review

"Breezy dialouge and a solid story line...readable, funny, and appealing." - Boston Globe

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781442423633
Publisher:
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
05/03/2011
Series:
Alice Series, #1
Edition description:
Reissue
Pages:
176
Sales rank:
239,568
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

On Monday, though, I turned my attention to clothes. My dad asked what I wanted to wear to sixth grade, and I told him I was tired of ordering my clothes from the Sears catalog. I wanted to go to one of those stores that sells Levis and get a real pair with the name on the pocket. Dad said that Lester would take me, so one afternoon we set off for a store that had light bulbs blinking on and off and rock music coming from a speaker.

My brother is nineteen and has a mustache. I asked him if girls like to kiss a man with a mustache and he asked if I wanted to find out and I said no. Lester and I don't say very much to each other, but when we do, it's right to the point.

Of course, there are some things we don't talk about at all. Like how to buy a bra. Not even Dad can talk about that. At the beginning of June, he noticed that my breasts made points in my tee shirts, so he said, "Al, don't you think you should be wearing something under that shirt?" I went upstairs and put on a second tee shirt over the first, and all summer long I wore two shirts at a time just to hide my points. All because I didn't know how to buy a bra.

I looked them up in the Sears catalog once, but there were nine pages about contour uplifts, fiberfill supports, underwire minimizers, DD cups, and something called the "Seamless Ah-h Bra." I mean, I couldn't even speak the language.

When we got to The Gap, I followed Lester inside and stared helplessly at the bins of folded jeans that reached all the way to the ceiling. Each bin had two numbers on it, like 29-33 and 32-31.

Lester stuck his hands in his pockets and looked me over. "Well," be said finally, "I'm thirty-three, thirty four, so I guess you're...oh, maybe twenty-nine, thirty."

I didn't know what the numbers meant, but Lester got down a pair of Levis for me. Then he took me to the row of dressing rooms in back and found one that was empty. I went in. There was no lock on the door. I went back out.

"What's the matter?" asked Lester.

"Hold the door," I told him.

Lester rolled his eyes and came over to lean on it.

I slipped off my Sears Toughskins and pulled on the Levis. They didn't even bend. I tried to imagine going to school in jeans that sounded like windshield wipers when you walked.

I stepped in one leg and then the other and promptly fell over. The jeans were so long my feet couldn't get out. I pulled them up around my ankles and stood up. There was enough room around the waist for a sofa cushion.

"Hey, Al," Lester was saying outside the door.

"They fit?"

I opened the door a crack, and Lester stuck his bead in.

"Stay here," he said when he saw me. "I'll get the smallest they've got."

I held onto the Levis until Lester brought back a pair that said 25-30. 1 tried them on. They still came down over my feet and I could stick both fists in the waist.

"I can't figure it out," said Lester. "Maybe you've got a strange body or something."

I felt like I had swallowed an ice cube. I was what I always suspected: a freak. Other girls my age wore jeans with Levis on the pocket, but I would never be able to wear them because I was obviously deformed. Tears sprang up in my eyes.

Have you ever bad a perfectly rotten experience turn out wonderful? At that precise moment a salesgirl was passing the door and she looked in.

"How we doing?" she said, and checked the size. "For heaven's sake," she told Lester, "she should be wearing Levis from the girls' department." And with that she took my arm and guided me out to a huge rack of jeans just made for me.

If I had had a sister, she would have known. If I had had a mother, she would have asked. Instead, Lester told me I was strange and would have taken me back home in tears. I shot him a dirty look as I clutched a pair of jeans to my chest and marched triumphantly back to the dressing room.

Have you ever bad a perfectly wonderful experience turn out awful? I opened the wrong door. There stood a red-haired boy in blue underpants. He wore white sport socks with yellow stripes around the tops and he was staring at me with his mouth open. I slammed the door as Lester pushed me into the right room, and I decided I would never come out as long as I lived. They could call the Rescue Squad, but I would stay in that dressing room forever. Miserably I tried on the size one jeans and they fit perfectly, but I was so embarrassed I couldn't even enjoy them.

"Al," Lester said finally. "You still alive?" "I'm not coming out," I told him, "not ever." "He's gone, Al."

"I can hear him breathing."

"He's gone. That's someone else."

I came out at last and went with Lester up to the cash register. There was the boy with the blue underpants in line just ahead of us. I stood behind Lester with my forehead pressed up against his back and didn't look up again until we were in the parking lot.

"When are you going to grow up?" Lester asked me.

"It was awful!" I told him. "It was so humiliating."

"It could have been worse," said Lester. "It could have been you standing there in your underpants and he opened the door."

I had a long, hard think about myself that night. I remembered a fairy tale I'd read once about a princess who worried all the time about getting old. One day her fairy godmother told her that if she really wanted, the godmother could fix it so that the princess grew younger instead of older. "Think about it for three days," the godmother said, and when she came back, the princess said yes, she really, truly, sincerely wanted to grow younger. So the princess got her wish. For the first couple years she was happy, but at the end of the story, she was lying in bed shaking a rattle and then she wasn't anything at all. I got to worrying that instead of growing up , I was growing more babyish all the time.

Copyright © 1985 by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Meet the Author

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor has written more than 135 books, including the Newbery Award–winning Shiloh, the Alice series, and Roxie and the Hooligans. She lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland. To hear from Phyllis and find out more about Alice, visit AliceMcKinley.com.

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The Agony of Alice 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 39 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Haha i put 1 star to get your attention i am nine and i am in love with this book. I think you should read it if you know what the back and front cover mean. I mean if you are six years old you wouldn't understand at all. If you were 12 or 13 then you probably would understand. I would reccomend this book from 9-16.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i really liked the agony of alice but i liked the witches eye better i mean who finds a witches eye every day but every body goes through agony i think my fave book of alice is outrageusely alice this was a good book and all but i've read better
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think this book is pretty good. I am 11 years old, and I'm in the reafing competition at my school. This book was on the list, so I thought I would read it. I think I would recomend this book. It is a very good read.
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
In the world of children's literature (and in recent years also YA), one name is mentioned above all others: Alice. To be specific, Alice McKinley--the intrepid heroine of Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's long running children's/YA series. "The Agony of Alice" is the debut novel of this series, originally published in 1985 and now out in a variety of reprints with myriad versions of cover art. Personally, I'd be more willing to consider Naylor's prequel novel "Starting With Alice" (from 2002) to be the actual beginning of this series, but having read both either seems appropriate as an introduction to Alice's world. When this story begins, Alice is preparing to move with her father and older brother, NAME. As the family packs up, Alice remembers all of the embarrassing things she did in the years leading up to the move and also wishes that, just maybe, some people like Donald Sheavers and the milk man might disappear or suddenly develop amnesia to save Alice some of her embarrassment. Of course, life doesn't work that way, so instead Alice just has to keep moving forward in her new town as she tries to make new friends, find a new mother (Alice's mother died when she was a young child), and earn a place on the coveted street patrol. Meanwhile, Alice has to decide whether she's growing up properly or backwards, cope with the worst teacher in the entire grade, and figure out how to buy a pair of jeans. Sixth grade is going to be nothing if not exciting for Alice! This is the kind of book where not many "major" things happen, it's more like opening a window into Alice's life. Happily that works. Alice is likable and entertaining. Naylor does a great job creating an authentic and readable voice in her first person narration. On a more minor note, it's kind of fun to read the early books in the series that are set in the 1980s just to get little touches like the cassette tapes thrown in to make the setting authentic. When I started "The Agony of Alice" I must admit that the book seemed a bit slow (as slow as such a short book can seem). That might have more to do with my usually reading crazy, action-packed fantasy novels. It might also have to do with my resistance to starting this series. Having done my time with sweeping series--the ones that go on for years and require a continued commitment to follow--I was hesitant to start another. Then I found out that the series would be ending when Alice turned eighteen and realized the end was in sight (Alice was already a high school junior in the latest installment). Plus, the book got more interesting the more I read which made me rethink my initial doubts. Finally, Alice is a great character. Certainly Alice has her stumbles along the way, but she always gets up and dusts herself off. It's a hard lesson to learn, so it's nice to see a character in a children's book who is already getting the hang of it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jbird96 More than 1 year ago
I love this book so much and i love how she ends up meeting Patrick but i wish they would have staid together in junior high
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Phyllis Reynolds Naylor takes us inside the mind of Alice in THE AGONY OF ALICE, and shares all the crazy adventures and thoughts that we never thought a pre-teen would have.

Alice McKinley is moving into a new house and entering the sixth grade. Almost a teenager, Alice just wants a little help getting used to all of those crazy issues that girls experience. And only having a father and brother, neither of whom know that girls do not wear jeans on the guy's side of The Gap, Alice could definitely use a little less male influence and a lot more of a female role model.

Things aren't working out so great, especially when the McKinley's new neighbors just so happen to bring them dinner, even though Alice's father promised that they would go out to eat. And Alice doesn't get Miss Cole, the gorgeous teacher that all of the girls want to be like, but instead is assigned to Mrs. Plotkin's class, the not-so-beautiful teacher. And then there is her brother, who knows nothing about being a teenage girl, and can only complain about the way Alice chews with her mouth open.

It seems like Alice needs someone to show her the ropes on being a girl --and quick!

Alice McKinley is just so innocent that you can't help but fall in love with her. THE AGONY OF ALICE is perfect for any pre-teen who isn't quite sure of what lies ahead for them and the obstacles that they just might have to face.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Once again, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor takes us inside the mind of Alice in THE AGONY OF ALICE, and shares all the crazy adventures and thoughts that we never thought a pre-teen would have. Alice McKinley is moving into a new house and entering the sixth grade. Almost a teenager, Alice just wants a little help getting used to all of those crazy issues that girls experience. And only having a father and brother, neither of whom know that girls do not wear jeans on the guy's side of The Gap, Alice could definitely use a little less male influence and a lot more of a female role model. Things aren¿t working out so great, especially when the McKinley¿s new neighbors just so happen to bring them dinner, even though Alice¿s father promised that they would go out to eat. And Alice doesn¿t get Miss Cole, the gorgeous teacher that all of the girls want to be like, but instead is assigned to Mrs. Plotkin¿s class, the not-so-beautiful teacher. And then there is her brother, who knows nothing about being a teenage girl, and can only complain about the way Alice chews with her mouth open. It seems like Alice needs someone to show her the ropes on being a girl -- and quick! Alice McKinley is just so innocent that you can¿t help but fall in love with her. THE AGONY OF ALICE is perfect for any pre-teen who isn¿t quite sure of what lies ahead for them and the obstacles that they just might have to face. **Reviewed by: Randstostipher 'tallnlankyrn' Nguyen
Guest More than 1 year ago
it was like i were alice whene reading the book!could not put it down!i wish i was alice and i wish that my library would get more books from alice! it changed my life because now i feel after i finished the book that i will be like her. i was sad when the book was over!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I never thought I would be intersted in this type of book.When i began reading the book i constantly keep going back and back into the book I was adicted to the book and i will be able to say to a lot of girls ages 9-16 might really really enjoy this book because it was a book that was excellent
Guest More than 1 year ago
Alice is an unforgetable character who teaches her readers a lot about the world. She is very curious and everytime she learned something new about life, I learned something new, as well. This book, the first official book of the series, is great. Alice enters the 6th grade at a new elementary school, and finds that growing up and becoming a teenager without a mother is a lot tougher than she had EVER imagined. I think that any girl over the age of 9 or 10 should read this book and all of the other books in this series!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was at the library, and was just browsing, and I saw the Alice books. I read a few of the inside covers, and picked the first 4 books that were in a row, but CMSU doesn't put thier books in numerable order, they put them in alabetical order, so I read most out of order. But I loved this book. I was just reading alone, and then something happened, and I could hardly hold back my laugh's, it was a great book. I could really relate to her cause I'm forever making a fool out of myself, so I could just see me doing all the things Alice did!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The alice books are a wonderful delight! I could always relate to Alice.The books are great for teenage gilrs. I don't know anybody thats read one that doesn't like it. Alice books are always a hit at my library.I've always grew up reading Alice. I read one and couldn't stop myself. I couldn't wait to turn the page. Alice boks have made me cry and laugh at the same time. I really think that Phyllis reynolds Naylor should return to writing the Alice books. It would be really great to return to reading the Alice books. It seems I have read all of them now and I have no more to read. I find myself reading them over agian. Alice books are definelty my Favorite!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the very first Alice book, and it is definitely one of the best! Alice goes through some really tough stuff, but she also has a ton of hilarious embarrassing moments! I have read all of the Alice books and they just keep getting better! Start with this one and read your way through! Warning: You may become addicted!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the first book in the Alice series and also the first Alice book i've ever read. At first, i thought it wouldn't be nice but then i totally fell in love with it! So now i'm crazily looking for the rest of the series. So far i've read The Agony of Alice, Alice in Rapture,sort of, All but Alice and Alice in April!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Iam 13 and love these books i really injoy it. My friends love em too. i cant get my eyes of of them i have only read 2 and i can tell there all going to be great!!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book about what any 13 year old goes through. I wish it would have had a little bit more romance with Patrick but overall a really good book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book was awesome and is something that teens (girls) can kinda relate to. i really enjoyed it .
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book was great!!! I couldn't put it down. I wish the book didn't end be it did but, any way the book is like a best friend you get so caught up in the act that you think your in it. But any ways the but is GREAT!!! I highly recommended it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book for girls who have at least a little knowledge of puberty, because there is a lot of stuff like that in the book. This is ~not~ a good book for immature boys at all! But it is still an extravagent book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was both enlightening and realistic. We all go through situations that seem frustrating and impossible, just as Alice in The Agony of Alice. What we need to know is how to make the best of them. We need to see people for their redeeming qualities rather than outside beauty - Alice learns how to do this also. A fabulous, well-written, touching story for children 10-13.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the best book in the whole world! You can relate to everything that happens to alice, everything! It is te best! All of them are great!!!! Get reading them! There are also some little things that have you laughing all night long! And everyone thinks you're crazy, but it is worth it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
teen age girls! ya must read this book! it is really good! i hate reading but i love the alice books, its about thinkgs that happen in everybodies life but u think its only tou that it happens to.its great!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This a great book you really should read it ,it is halarius!!! Alice Mc kingley always getting embarrassed if you want to have a good laugh read this book!^_6