Alice Bliss is fifteen. She’s been best friends with the neighbor boy Henry since they were in diapers, but their feelings seem to be changing into maybe something more. Other things at school have changed, too, like her best girlfriend joining the popular crowd and totally ignoring her, and a popular guy paying attention to her. But the biggest change is that her father has been deployed to Iraq. She’s not sure how she’s going to survive the months without him.
Alice Bliss: A Novel is the story of a family trying to keep going when Matt Bliss, the glue that holds them together, decides to join the Army reserves and is put into active duty in Iraq.
Alice knows that Gram is just as scared as she is — well, maybe not just as scared — and that cookies and toast and honey and molasses are not really going to make things right. But they’re all we’ve got. Just the everyday things: the forks and the spoons and the plates and breakfast and lunch and dinner and homework and playing Scrabble with your sister. That’s all anybody’s got when you get right down to it (Alice Bliss, page 176)
The writing is beautiful and as a reader, I become enmeshed with the Bliss family. Even though it’s a third person narrator, we know some of the thoughts and motivations, particularly of Alice and her mother Angie. Because Alice is a 15-year-old girl, things are a little rough with her mother. They’ve grown apart as girls and mothers often do at that age. Their responses to Matt’s absence heightens the distance, yet at times breaks it down as well. As the reader, I found myself seeing Angie mostly through her 15-year-old daughter’s eyes (unfavorably), which is saying a lot about the writing because as the mom of an almost-teen, I generally identify with the mother.
Once I got into the rhythm of this novel, I absolutely loved it. At first the way the story was told within a daily entry — not a journal, but a third-person account of each day — seemed a bit choppy, but as I continued to read the style fit perfectly. It underscored the passing of time, which is exactly what the Bliss family was doing — marking time until they could be together again. In spite of their constant worry about Matt, their daily lives go on — with school, work, dinner, sleep — in between quick static-filled phone calls and letters back and forth.
NOTE: This is a novel published for adults, but it’s also a a coming of age story that I think many high school girls would enjoy, and by high school most kids are reading adult novels anyway. I marked this one with the Teen and High School category labels, because I think that it would be of particular interest to high schoolers as well as adults. There are a handful of adult words, but believe me it’s nothing that your 15-year-old hasn’t heard before.
I am so pleased to be able to share a copy of Alice Bliss with one of you. Just leave a comment here if you’d like to win. We’ll announce the winner on June 1, the day before the book is published, and you’ll have the book in hand the week it comes out! This Giveaway is Closed.
We have many winners to announce!
- The winners of When Did I Get Like This? are #18 Stephanie and #1 Angel S.
- This is Just Exactly Like You – #8 Anita Yancey
- Nonfiction for Bird-Loving Kids – #6 Connie Black.
- Meg Cabot’s Abandon – #27 Lizzie
Jennifer Donovan is thankful for a husband who doesn’t have to leave for months at a time and is a great support in raising a teen daughter. She blogs about other marriage and parenting concerns at Snapshot.