Cover image for Reluctantly Alice
Reluctantly Alice
Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Atheneum, 1991.
Physical Description:
182 pages ; 22 cm
Alice experiences the joys and embarrassments of seventh grade while advising her father and older brother on their love lives.
General Note:
"A Jean Karl book."
Reading Level:
860 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.0 6.0 6626.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.9 9 Quiz: 09665 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
J FICTION Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks
J FICTION Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Alice McKinley comes home on the first day of junior high with a list of seven things about seventh grade that stink. Just about the only good thing she can think of is that she's friends with everyone. Maybe that's how to survive seventh grade--make it through the entire year with everyone liking her.

That turns out to be easier said than done, when Alice gets on the wrong side of the school bully, Denise "Mack Truck" Whitlock. But Alice's problems with Denise pale in comparison with the romantic entanglements of both her father and her older brother, Lester. And when Alice decides to help them out…life gets even more complicated.

Author Notes

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor was born in Anderson, Indiana on January 4, 1933. She received a bachelor's degree from American University in 1963. Her first children's book, The Galloping Goat and Other Stories, was published in 1965. She has written more than 135 children and young adult books including Witch's Sister, The Witch Returns, The Bodies in the Bessledorf Hotel, A String of Chances, The Keeper, Walker's Crossing, Bernie Magruder and the Bats in the Belfry, Please Do Feed the Bears, and The Agony of Alice, which was the first book in the Alice series. She has received several awards including the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Night Cry and the Newberry Award for Shiloh.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 5-8. Embarrassment seems to be Alice's dominant experience in seventh grade. She's klutzy about people's feelings; the class bully picks on her (she even mocks Alice for having no mother); and everyone seems so interested in bodies--naked bodies. As in The Agony of Alice [BKL O 15 85] and Alice in Rapture [BKL Mr 1 89], Naylor combines laugh-out-loud scenes with moments of sudden gentleness. Alice is occasionally too wise (no seventh-grader knows she'll change from a praying mantis to a butterfly by ninth grade), but the characters are complex, the dialogue is droll, the junior high world authentic. In the best episode, Alice tries hard to help her friend Elizabeth, who's never seen a man naked. Alice researches old National Geographics, paper-clipping the relevant pages, though there always seems to be a spear or something in front of what you want to see. Maybe she should try the drugstore. Her father quietly solves the problem: he takes her to the public library and suggests she look at the section on the human body. And the librarian doesn't even blink, "like it was okay to be curious." ~--Hazel Rochman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Likeable Alice McKinley is back in this honest and funny portrayal of the ups and downs of seventh grade. Having survived her ``summer of the first boyfriend,'' Alice is determined to start off the school year as everyone's friend. But in the first week she discovers seven things that ``stink'' about seventh grade, and it takes her quite some time to come up with seven good things. Just as the beleaguered heroine seems to be coping well with her various crises she has a run-in with Denise ``Mack-Truck'' Whitlaw. Meanwhile her domestic problems--concerning her brother's and father's romances--are escalating. Alice is able to resolve her differences with Denise (in typical Alice fashion), but when she attempts to take on the family dilemmas the results are comic and chaotic. Alice's fans will not be disappointed in her latest misadventures, and the news that Naylor intends to take Alice through to her graduation is certainly welcome. Ages 8-12. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-- It's the first day of seventh grade, and Alice can't think of anything good about it except she gets out at 2:30 instead of 3:00. She feels weird, thinks she looks weird, and is not used to being at the bottom rung of the ladder. Then, with her usual style and verve, she decides that things have to get better, and plans to spend the year being Alice the Likable. This is before her run-in with Denise ``Mack-Truck'' Whitlock, however--and before she discovers the problems her widowed father and 20-year old brother, Lester, are having with the women in their lives. Young adolescents will recognize themselves in Alice and will laugh, cry, and cheer her on as she finds all things are possible. Alice and her surrounding cast of characters are realistic and full of vitality. With cheerful, upbeat writing and positive emphasis, this third book about Alice is sure to be as popular as the previous two. Readers will be reluctant to see it end. --Pamela K. Bomboy, Chesterfield County Public Schools, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



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!" I smiled. 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. Excerpted from Reluctantly Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.