Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds. Alice On Her Way. Simon Pulse, 2006. ISBN 978-0689870910 322 pp. $6.99
Alice, now a sophomore, is initially furious when her dad signs her up for a sex ed class at a local church called “Our Whole Lives” which is simply another foil for the author to impart wisdom about sexuality to teens. However Alice (and hopefully, the reader) gets a lot out of the class which teaches how to say names of body parts in mixed company, to discuss sexual matters, to understand the difference between, love, sex and intimacy and why you need all three in a mature, successful relationship, and finally to form a personal vision of herself and her sexuality.
Whew, that’s just the first paragraph, and I feel like every other word is sex! I haven’t even mentioned that Alice’s friend Sam, a photographer on the newspaper with her, becomes more than a friend, or that she gets TWO invitations to the Valentine’s Day Dance (3 guesses who the other one is–his name starts with P and rhymes with “hat trick). A school trip to New York is an opportunity to cut loose a little, and make out with Sam on the bus. Elizabeth’s camp boyfriend Ross reappears, Lester falls in love, and Pamela’s disenchantment with her mother’s smothering after years of inattention, which results in acting out of the worst kind–seeking attention from boys in the wrong kids of ways at a time when she is vulnerable. And, oral sex rears it’s controversial head (pun intended), but the act is left off-screen so the impact of the action can be discussed instead.
Naylor’s continues to develop her characters around an agenda (to impart info and make teen girls understand their thoughts, feelings and desire are NORMAL), but it works. Real character growth happens when Pamela and Alice must make difficult decisions about specific relationships. The analogy of Alice trying to get her license and struggling to understand herself and her sexual feelings didn’t go unnoticed by this reviewer. The amount of time and energy the characters devote to talking about sex is accurately portrayed–I remember sixteen. I don’t think I talked about anything else (well, maybe college). I wish there had been a book (and a CLASS!) like that around when I was a teen, worrying about college and appearance one instant, and where it was ok to touch and be touched the next.