Reluctantly Aliceby Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
After her first day in junior high, Alice McKinley says, "I can think of at least seven things about seventh grade that stink." But after a week, Alice has decided that maybe junior high isn't so bad. In fact, maybe she can go a whole year being friends with everyone, teachers and students alike. This is before she has her first run-in with Denise "Mack-Truck" Whitlock.
Alice, who has survived sixth grade and The Summer of the First Boyfriend, soon discovers that it isn't so easy to be Alice the Likeable. Even her best friends get in the way sometimes. And just when she is sure no one has more problems than she does, she is drawn into the ones her twenty-year-old brother and her widowed father are facing, which seem worse. Thinking a favorite teacher may hold the answer to at least one difficulty, Alice ends up with a bigger mess than ever.
She realizes, however, that it is possible to overcome disaster and to find a way out of troubles. Most of all, she discovers, it's good to have a father and a brother who love you and look out for you. In fact, sometimes, having family is almost enough.
Read an Excerpt
What's really worst about being in seventh grade is that you just got out of sixth. In sixth grade, you're a safety patrol. You get to go on overnight field trips with your teachers, help out in the office, and rule the playground. If two people form a couple, then everyone pairs off, and the fourth and fifth graders are green with envy.
But when you start seventh grade, you're at the bottom of the ladder again. You look weird. You feel weird. The boys and girls who were couples back in sixth grade pretend they don't know each other anymore. I mean, when Patrick and I kissed last summer, it was a quick kiss with his hands on my shoulders, and then we edged over to our own sides of the glider again.
When couples kiss in eighth and ninth grades, I discovered, they touch their lips together lightly two or three times first, and then it's so embarrassing you have to look away. If their bodies were any closer, he'd be a grilled cheese sandwich.
Almost everything that Pamela Jones told us about seventh grade, that her cousin in New Jersey told her, was wrong. So far, anyway. You don't have to have a boyfriend or a leather skirt, either one. What you worry about, instead, is whether you can remember your coat locker and P.E. locker combinations both, whether you can get from one end of the building to the other before the bell, whether you'll drop your tray in the cafeteria and everyone will clap, and whether, when you go in the rest room, there will be any latches on the stalls.
It didn't help, either, that I had started junior high with an allergy. Dad says that happens sometimes when you move from one part of the country to another. I'd been doing a lot of sneezing the last couple of years, but the fall of seventh grade was absolutely the worst. I had to have Kleenex with me all the time at school, and the large girl who sat in front of me in Language Arts was always looking over her shoulder whenever I blew my nose.
I don't know what it was, though-maybe the Sara Lee brownies we had for dessert-but after telling Dad the one good thing I could think of about seventh grade, I felt better, and realized that at this particular time in my life, I was friends with everybody. I'll admit that seventh grade was only one day old, but suddenly I had this new goal: to go the whole year with everyone liking me. I don't mean be "most popular girl" or anything; I just wanted teachers to smile when they said "Alice McKinley" and the other kids to say, "Alice? Yeah, she's okay. She's neat."
Alice the Likable, that would be me. So there were at least two good things now about seventh grade: We got out earlier, and I was starting a brand new school, friends with everyone so far, even Patrick.
By Wednesday of the first week, the count of good things about seventh grade had gone up to three: no recess in junior high. I didn't realize how much I hated recess until there wasn't any. You didn't have to put on your coat and go stand out in the cold. You didn't have to play tag ball whether you wanted to or not. You didn't have a teacher blowing a whistle at you every fifteen seconds, or have third-grade boys trying to hit you with volley balls. There was P.E., of course, but what you got instead of recess was an extra long lunch hour, and you could do anything you wanted.
By Thursday morning, I had numbers four and five: In seventh grade, you're only in class with a certain teacher for forty minutes, so if it turns out to be someone awful, you don't have to stand it all day. The other thing is that the school has its own newspaper-the students write it themselves-and it's a lot more interesting than the newsletter we put out in sixth grade.
The sixth good thing about seventh grade-absolutely astounding-I discovered Thursday afternoon in P.E. It was the first day we had actually undressed and put on our gym shorts and T-shirts. The class was made up of some seventh; eighth; and ninth-grade girls together, and though the shower stalls had curtains on them and each of us had a towel to wrap up in when we stepped out, some of the older girls didn't wrap.
Seventh-grade girls used their towels like aluminum foil, encircling their bodies and sealing the seams, but some of the older girls stepped out of the showers, their towels around their hair instead, with their entire bodies on view for the rest of us, the seventh graders in particular. For the first time in my whole twelve years, I saw naked breasts-big breasts-in person. I couldn't help staring, they were just so amazing. They came in all shapes and sizes and some were huge. I mean, compared to the breasts I saw in P.E., Pamela, Elizabeth, and I hadn't even sprouted yet. We were still buds on a tree, moths in a cocoon, tadpoles in a pond, mosquitoes in eggs.
I talked about it at dinner that night, and for once I had Lester's full attention. When I'd finished my revelations about the wonders of the female breast, Dad gave me a little smile and said, "Your mother did nurse you, you know. You're not quite as deprived as you think."
"A lot of good that did me. I was too young to remember."
"And you never saw your Aunt Sally's breasts?" Dad asked.
I stared. "Are you kidding? Aunt Sally wears vinyl siding for a bathrobe!" (She doesn't, of course. The times we've visited her in Chicago, she's worn a chenille robe, but she clutches it closed with two hands.)
"What about Carol?" Lester asked. Carol is Aunt Sally's daughter, and she's a couple years older than Les. "You never saw her in the nude?"
"No," I said. "Did you?"
Lester turned bright red.
"Got-cha!" I said.
"No," Lester said quickly. "I never did. Don't be stupid.
"Well, then!" said Dad. "You've achieved a twelve-year goal today, Al! So how are you liking seventh grade?"
"Fine," I told him. "And if I can think of one more good thing about it, it'll cancel out all the bad ones."
I went to school on Friday searching for it-the seventh good thing about seventh. I wanted to like junior high. According to Mrs. Plotkin, wanting to do things is half the battle. In each of my classes I looked for something that was different from sixth grade that made junior high better. The teacher in Life Science was nice. So was Miss Summers in Language Arts. Nice and pretty, too. My math instructor was kind and was good at explaining problems, but as the day went on and I was in and out of classrooms, there wasn't one particular class that stood out. Finally there was just one period left, Mr. Hensley's World Studies, and I thought, "Wouldn't it be great if I discovered the Seventh Wonder of Seventh Grade in here?"
This is the only class I have with Patrick, and all week we'd been sitting in the last row, as far as we could get from Mr. Hensley's bad breath. Patrick hasn't exactly been ignoring me, but after we'd seen the way eighth and ninth graders make out at lunch time, leaning against the walls outside, all the kids who had been going together as couples in sixth grade sort of developed amnesia. None of us wanted to remember the silly things we'd done over the summer. Like the boys running around the playground with Pamela's new Up-Lift, Spandex, Ahh-Bra. No ninth-grade boy would do that, and no ninth-grade girl would get hysterical if he did. So here before class is the one place Patrick and I can talk a little and catch up on things without attracting attention.
"How's it going?" Patrick said.
"Better. I actually think I'm going to like junior high." I crossed my fingers. "Maybe." I stole him a look. "You been to P.E. yet?" I wondered if seventh-grade boys had the same kind of revelations when they looked at older boys in the nude as girls did when they saw older girls in the shower. "Yeah! It's neat!" Patrick said. "We're doing track right now, and you should see the legs on some of those guys on our team!"
Then the bell rang and Horse-Breath Hensley was up in front of the room, pacing back and forth the way he does when he talks to the class. This time he was talking about fairness, and the way he was going to conduct the class. He'd already given us an outline of the course and told us when the big reports were due, and he said that he knew he wasn't one of the most exciting teachers in the school, but he hoped we would remember him as one of the fairest. So far so good, I thought. Maybe this will be the Seventh Thing.
Then Mr. Hensley said that probably all our lives we had been treated alphabetically as an example o fairness. The Adamsons were always called on first in class and the Ziotskys were always called on last.
True, I thought, but I'll admit I'd always liked that. With a last name right smack in the middle of the alphabet, it had always been comforting to know that I wouldn't be the first to have to stand up and give a report or the last one, either. If Mr. Hensley reversed it and called on the Z's first and the A's last, "McKinley" would still be in the middle. I smiled to myself.
"And so," Mr. Hensley said, "just to even things up a bit, in this class we go alphabetically by first names, and we're seated accordingly. If you will now move to the desks I assign you.... Alice McKinley, first seat, first row, please. Barbara Engstrom, next seat, first row..." He read off his list, filling up the front row all the way across, then starting on the second. I don't remember the rest. The only thing I knew for certain was that the class was rearranged, Patrick and I were separated, and I realized that for the rest of the semester I would be the first one called on for everything. I was also directly in line of fire of Mr. Hensley's breath.
"I think that was a wonderful idea!" said a girl named Yvonne Allison as we left the room. I swallowed. The seventh best thing about seventh grade turned out to be the worst of all.
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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Read this book!!It has great lessons.If you are in middle school,Alice goes through the same things you do, in this book.Please read this book.It is very funny.(And other Alice books.)
From the reveiws Ill read it.
The perfect book if you want to know about the problems about 7th grade. I am not as ready for middle school as I thought I was. This is book was really good! Totally Awesome
So far, I have read books 1-3 of the Alice series and this has to be my favorite. It has the same whitty sense of humor that you can relate to but a message as well. I recommend this book.
i loved this book and all the rest of the alice books!i hope mrs. naylor writes more of them.