That was…incredible. WHAT ARE WORDS?! HOW DO I DO WORDS?! It was marvellous. I went in with no idea what to expect (seeing the blurb is super vague) so the only things I vaguely assumed the book would contain are:
- An Alice…probably the main character?
- An upside-down house. (Well, that’s MY interpretation of the cover.)
- Phobias and obsessions? So basically the equivalent of Aunt Josephine from A Series of Unfortunate Events who was scared of everything.
Well, HA H AHA. I WAS WRONG ABOUT IT ALL.
- Alice is not the main character. Greg is writing the book.
- The house isn’t upside-down…ohhh, WELL. Okay, it is. The entire world is upside-down.
- It’s definitely and absolutely phobias and obsessions, but it’s also about delusions and schizophrenia. And also bullying and domestic abuse and secrets.
So let’s talk about Greg, yes?
He’s super quiet, to the point where he never. says. anything. This is partly because he’s always branded as “psycho” by the kids at school and horribly bullied. And it’s partly because he has a lisp and gets teased for it. And it’s also because he thinks out elaborate things to say…he just can’t get it out.
The family in this book isn’t a rosy pineapple bonanza either. Think of “dysfunctional” and MULTIPLE IT BY 6. You get points if you understood this reference.
Basically Greg is an incredibly unreliable narrator. And I loved that. We’re so immersed in his thought-process that we just coast along thinking like him, being like him, agreeing with him and — BOOM — everything explodes in awfulness. Even I, a cold-hearted Vulcan, empathised with Greg, despite some of his freakier obsessions…aka stalking the girl (HALLO ALICE) at school.
The book’s written in letter format. It’s to Alice, despite Greg never having…um…actually talked to her. (He’s got problems, okay?!) It’s in the style of “you smiled and I watched you”, which took me a little while to get used to. But once I squashed my brain into “YOU” mode, I loved it. I love uniqueness.
The story flows as Greg’s stream of consciousness, so when he panics, there’ll be chapters were EVERYTHING is a run-on sentence. I’m talking “there-is-no-period-in-the-entire-chapter” sort of thing. There’s also minimal dialogue. It’s a monologue.
“Eh,” I thought, “this isn’t going to work for me.” BUT IT DID. I could. not. put. it. down.
I loved the police transcripts too. They were completely devoid of Greg’s POV and…chilling.
Because, YES, this is a contemporary about mental illness…but it reads like a thriller.
Something BAD has happened. Something really really scary and it has to do wtih Greg and we readers don’t know yet. Greg’s sections are in the present and the transcripts are in the future…AND SOMETHING CATASTROPHIC HAS GONE DOWN.
‘Scuse me while I panic.
But, um, actually there was one thing I didn’t like:
…the ending isn’t really explained.
It’s implied. THAT IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME. I needed it to be confirmed. I needed the Terrible Horror to be written out in black-and-white, so gahhhh. That did sort of ruin the build up for me.
Basically this book is incredible and thrilling. I love unreliable narrators and there was this total tug of “whathappenedtellmenoworiwlilexplode” that kept me turning pages like a frantic fiend. I was totally choked up by the end. The delusions were written so convincingly, I totally choked up for Greg. Life is hard when you’re different and I think the author captured this. And with the “thriller” vibe? I COULD NOT STOP READING.
Thanks Hachette for the review-copy! Alice and the Fly by James Rice was published February, 2015.
This is a book about phobias and obsessions, isolation and dark corners. It’s about families, friendships, and carefully preserved secrets. But above everything else it’s about love. Finding love – in any of its forms – and nurturing it.
Miss Hayes has a new theory. She thinks my condition’s caused by some traumatic incident from my past I keep deep-rooted in my mind. As soon as I come clean I’ll flood out all these tears and it’ll all be ok and I won’t be scared of Them anymore. The truth is I can’t think of any single traumatic childhood incident to tell her. I mean, there are plenty of bad memories – Herb’s death, or the time I bit the hole in my tongue, or Finners Island, out on the boat with Sarah – but none of these are what caused the phobia. I’ve always had it. It’s Them. I’m just scared of Them. It’s that simple.