Alice Bliss. I first noticed this book on Pop Culture Nerd’s blog back in June. She gave it an amazing review, and as I trust her taste, I knew I would have to pick it up. Then the author contacted me about joining in her campaign Where’s Alice Bliss?, where different people read and review the book and release it into the wild through Book Crossing. If you haven’t checked the site out, it is so cool and a great way to track books after you’ve dropped them somewhere.
So, the book. 15-year-old Alice is a daddy’s girl. She and her mom don’t see eye to eye, but she and her father Matt have a really special relationship. They tend a garden together, and her dad just gets her. When her dad decides to enlist and is sent overseas, the whole family – Alice, her mom, and her sister Ellie- have to deal with the stress, the anger, the sadness, and the fear of having a loved one on active duty. Matt is the anchor of this family, and untethered, the three have to learn how to connect to one another in his absence.
What Laura Harrington does so so well is to write authentic characters. One of my biggest complaints with young adult books are unbelievable characters, but Harrington’s characters are spot on, and several have a chance to talk in their own chapters. Alice is conflicted and doesn’t want to show her emotions. I was very like that at her age (and to be honest, I still am), so I could understand her need to shut down and retreat to the spaces she and her father frequented such as the garden shed, sleeping in there when she feels furthest from him. Her little sister was funny and extremely intelligent. Mrs. Bliss is so perfectly human. She wants to be there for her girls, but after her husband goes MIA, she has no idea how to cope amid her conflicted feelings.
Lest you think this is simply a tearjerker, the book is actually quite funny. Alice and her relationship with Henry, her lifelong best friend, changes as each realizes he or she has feelings for the other. Also, Alice’s uncle is such a bright spot, and the scenes with him and Alice are fun and touching. It was really refreshing to see a novel about a real family – slightly dysfunctional but full of love and fun, even in the really bad times.
Read this: and be prepared to tear up and laugh out loud.
As for the book drop, I waited and waited to release this book because I wanted it to be somewhere special, so when I headed to Austin for the Texas Book Festival, I grabbed it, knowing book lovers would appreciate a free book. My mom helped me prop the book just so on the head of this longhorn, and the next time we passed, the book was gone! I hope the recipient enjoys it as much as I did.