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Alice, I Thinkby Susan Juby
Synopses & Reviews
when i was small and ordinary,
but also special . . .
I blame it all on The Hobbit. That, and my supportive home life.
I grew up in one of those loving families that fail to prepare a person for real life. When I was little, my parents, especially my mother, encouraged me to be creative. She taught me to sing and dance, preferably on a table so everyone could get a good look. I could belt out show tunes and feminist anthems like "I Am Woman" by the time I was four. My parents would clap and cheer and make me feel like my talents and I were incredibly lovable.
"Come here," they'd say to their friends. "You've got to see Alice's new routine."
Then I'd get up on the table in one of my outfits and sing some totally inappropriate song at the top of my lungs.
I loved the attention. They loved the entertainment. I had no idea that it would spell my destruction.
They were practically sick with pride when I learned to read early, and they made sure I got a full set of all the classics. My favorite, although I didn't really understand it and my dad had to read most of it to me, was The Hobbit. We talked a lot about the characters, and somewhere along the line I became convinced I was a hobbit. My parents loved this best of all. How incredibly creative and unusual this offspring of theirs was! Not only did they encourage me in thinking I was a hobbit, my mother actually made me a hobbit outfit. It included a burlap-sack tunic with twine fringe, brown felt slippers with bits of fake fur on the toes, and a pointy green hat. I wore it everywhere. I said hobbity things and practiced my deep, fruity laugh. I asked people to call me Took and carried anoversized pipe that my dad's friend picked up for me at something called a head shop. I liked to tell people that I was fond of flowers. And then my parents sent me off to school.
My parents didn't send me to kindergarten, because they said they didn't feel ready yet. But then my brother, MacGregor, was born, and they had to spread around their urge to overprotect. So off I went for the first day of first grade, where I quickly discovered that everyone else had bonded and figured out the rules the year before. My next discovery was that kids don't like other kids who think they are hobbits, especially kids who break into song and dance without any warning. In fact, as it turned out, there is probably no worse thing to be in first grade than a newcomer who thinks she's a hobbit.
Parenting Rule No. 1: Don't send your kids to school dressed like a character from a fantasy book unless that kid has a lot of friends who also dress like fantasy characters.
When the little blond girl came up to me and asked me what I was supposed to be, I told her, even though some part of me dimly sensed it was a bad idea.
"I'm a hobbit," I announced proudly.
"What's that?" she asked, her little face intent. Maybe she was going to be my first friend at school. My mother told me school was where I was going to meet all kinds of kids who would be my friends and possibly also dancing partners. "It's from this book called The Hobbit. It's really good."
"You read?" asked the girl.
I was breezy. "Oh yeah. Everyone our age does, practically."
Her face took on a look any less sheltered kid would have recognized as dangerous. But I didn't see it.
"So you're a what?" she asked.
"I'm a hobbit. We are small and ordinary but also special. We can be sort of invisible sometimes. And we laugh like this." I gave her my deepest and fruitiest laugh.
"You know what I think?" she asked.
I shook my head.
"I think you look like an ugly boy."
I took off my pointy hat and put my hand to my hair.
"And just so you know, ugly-boy girls like you can't have friends," continued the little blond girl.
Behind the girl stood six or seven other girls, all staring at me too. Accusing.
"I don't like you. No one likes you, even if you are a bobbit or whatever. And no one will ever like you."
And with that the little blond girl turned and left me standing by myself on the playground, hobbit hat in hand, burlap sack filled with extra cakes for new friends over my shoulder.
Turned out that Linda, the little blond girl, was right. No one in my new classroom liked me. The other lonely kids were too scared by Linda and her gang to talk to me, even after I started wearing civilian clothes. By the end of the second week, picking on me had become the favorite activity. After the kids played dodgeball with me as the target, and bologna sandwiches as the ammo, I was afraid to go onto the playground. The playground monitors didn't seem to notice. Or maybe they didn't care. I overheard one refer to me as "that little delusional in the gunnysack." Good thing she was just in charge of the play yard and not the actual classroom.
My mom eventually had to come in to meet with the principal after I refused to leave the classroom at recess because Linda told me that she and her friends had "special plans" for me. Linda and I were sent to the office, and I had to sitthere, two chairs away from my archnemesis, and listen to my mother yell at the principal.
"My God, don't you know what those kids are doing to my daughter? To her spirit? Don't you care?" my mother demanded.
The principal mumbled something....
This brilliantly observed debut novel was short-listed for two Canadian literary awards and is certain to appeal to fans of "Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging." Wise, witty, and entirely original, "Alice, I Think" is a chronicle of small-town life and a window into the soul of an utterly appealing heroine.
"I grew up in one of those loving families that fails to prepare a person for real life..."
A few weeks into first grade Alice's parents took her out of school and have taught her at home ever since. Now she's about to enter high school, with the stated goal of boosting the self-esteem of her counselor, Death Lord Bob. Bob is happy now. But what about Alice?
Will she be able to interact with people her own age who are not home-based learners? Will she be able to survive some sort of boy-girl interaction? Or is this best left until after high school? Until middle age? What about a unique and innovative career path? A new look? (This must, like career choice, reflect uniqueness.)
Alice, I Think is the story of a teenager attempting to survive her parents, her hometown, and her reentry into society. Told through keenly observant, satirical journal entries, Susan Juby's first novel is wise, witty, and utterly original.
About the Author
Susan Juby dropped out of fashion design college at a young age and it shows. She lives on an island with her husband, James, and their dog, who prefers to remain anonymous. Alice, I Think is Susan Juby's first novel. She hopes there will be many more, as a career in fashion does not, at this point, seem likely.
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