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Alice, I Think

by Susan Juby

You’ve got to like a kid who continues in therapy just so her mental-health professional won’t be traumatized. And 15-year-old Alice, notwithstanding the opinions of her classmates, parents, and neighbours in Smithers, B.C., is terrific. In this “career journal” she has embarked on at the urging of her counsellor, a.k.a. Death Lord Bob, she walks an endearing line between cynicism and ingenuous idealism. She leaves no over-the-hill Dead Head unstoned and has only scorn for overage hippies who give their daughters names like Frank. She’s delighted by her cousin Frank’s sexual and pharmacological entrepreneurship (and her red Lurex jumpsuit, striped leg-warmers, and feather boa), yet genuinely appreciative of her strangely well-adjusted younger brother’s tropical fish-raising skills. She also has an age-appropriate conviction that a really good haircut can turn your life around.

Like Alice, Susan Juby grew up in Smithers in Northern Interior B.C. This is her first novel and it’s as funny as the cover copy claims, delivering everything from snickers to guffaws. Alice’s home life comes in somewhere between Lynn Johnston’s “For Better or for Worse” and the Addams Family. Episodes in which the family hooks up to the Internet or goes on the Family Trail Ride are alone worth the cover price. Any fears that Alice may fade to normal in the end prove groundless – her resolve to meet Life Goal # 9, “Get involved in some sort of boy/girl interaction,” is a virtuoso performance. Alice doesn’t quite get herself deflowered at the tropical fish show, but she makes a valiant attempt. This is a smart, perceptive, intelligent book. The only people sure not to like it will be over-the-hill hippie parents who think they deserve more respect.