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Alice in Time
by Penelope Bush

This was our book group’s choice for our June meeting, chosen partly as the author is the cousin of one of our members, and also as we haven’t read a young adult book for twelve months – we usually pick one per year.

Alice is 14. She’s been best friends with arty outsider Imogen since she came to the school when they were seven and Alice dropped Sasha for her.  Now Sasha hates and bullies Alice, and has invited everyone in the class to her party except Alice and Imogen;  Alice is often nasty back.  Alice also has had a hard time at home as her parents broke up some years ago, when her brother Rory was a baby.  Her Dad left – he’s getting remarried, and it’s hard living with her Mum.  Thank goodness for Imogen!  Then Alice meets and falls for Seth, but when she finds out he’s Sasha’s new step-brother she runs to the park. When she gets off the roundabout, she’s gone back in time to when she was seven…  as a teenager in a child’s body she has a chance to put things right with her friends, stop her Mum and Dad splitting up and more.

The following discussion contains *slight spoilers*…

Usually it’s an adult that goes back in time to when they were a teenager – in all the films anyway.  A teen going back to being a child is very unusual, especially as at fourteen you’re not emotionally mature anyway. There’s potential for Alice to put her foot in it big-time – and she does in a way, becoming a bully herself in the situation with Sasha and Imogen; however that does lead to an entirely different outcome which she seems happy with.  She also interferes in her parent’s marriage, thinking that she has to take responsibility – and she finds out that things are not what they seem.

Schoolgirl bullying is everywhere, and girls can be really cruel to each other. Alice realises that dropping Sasha so totally for Imogen was cruel, but she also wants to get her own back on Sasha for everything that happened back in her teenage world, and she does, she does it by bullying.  It takes her a while, but she does finally realise that that’s a bad, bad thing.  Her family relationships are more complex – initially she seems to think she can solve things by leaving appropriate leaflets on gambling and drink problems, and post-natal depression.  Talking to her Gran – always a good move, really helps.  Finally she gets back to a different future – no SF time-travel problems with changing things here – personally, I thought this tied up things rather too easily, but it’s not that sort of book.

Those of us who met to discuss the book, (all the guys were mysteriously not present this month!), got stuck in to talking about female bullying in all its forms.  We all agreed that it was a good read for its target market, but that the first half, before she goes back in time, went on rather too long - we were all waiting for the time-shift as promised in the blurb.  (6.5/10) I bought this book.

Next month, we’re talking about  The Junior Officers’ Reading Club: Killing Time and Fighting Wars by Patrick Hennessey.

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