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Alice MacLeod, Realist at Last

by Susan Juby

Fans of Susan Juby’s first two Alice books will find themselves well rewarded for the wait for the third. Here we catch up with Alice, still living in the small B.C. interior town of Smithers, during the summer before Grade 12. As usual, the underappreciated fashion genius, saintly daughter, and writing prodigy is having a hard time. Her mother has been sent to jail for illegal environmental protest, her boyfriend has moved to Scotland with his family, and her aging hippie dad actually expects her to get a summer job!

Good thing she can channel her suffering into her art, in the form of a screenplay called “Of Moose and Men.” The title owes less to Steinbeck’s brand of social realism than to an incident at the beginning of the summer, in which Alice’s plan to lose her virginity in a parked car is foiled by the arrival of a moose that scares her boyfriend. She makes a second run at this goal toward the end of the novel, with a different boy and under less benign circumstances. The two events frame the plot, and Alice’s somewhat mature handling of the second event provides a coming-of-age moment, making the book’s title a little less ironic but, happily, only a little.

There are several laugh-out-loud scenes in the novel, along with a great deal of insight into what it’s like to be a self-conscious teenager with occasional delusions of grandeur and a recurring blindness to one’s own behaviour. But since some of us experience these things well past the teen years, this novel is likely to have great crossover appeal, for both young adult and older readers.