Sunday, October 6, 2013

Now I'll Tell You Everything by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Now I'll Tell You Everything by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Publisher: Athenum Books for Young Readers
Release: October 16, 2013
Source: ALA
Others in the Series: A lot. Click here to view them all
Alice McKinley is going to college! And everything, from her room to her classes to her friends, is about to change. Stoically, nervously, Alice puts her best foot forward…and steps into the rest of her life.

Just how crazy will her college life get? Will Alice’s dream of becoming a psychologist come true? Are she and her BFFs destined to remain BFFs? And with so many miles between them, will Alice and Patrick stay together…or is there a hot, mysterious stranger in her future? As Alice well knows, life isn’t always so predictable, and there are more than a few curveballs waiting to be thrown her way.

This is it. The grand finale. You’ve loved her, you’ve learned with her, you’ve watched her grow up through twenty-eight books. And now everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Alice McKinley will be revealed!
Just by looking at its cover, anyone can tell Now I'll Tell You Everything is different, a shift from the rest of the series. Before, each book incorporated the main character's name into the title and, in the newer editions, the cover designer chose to only capture the back of her head. But now, with a final turn to face the photographer, the no-longer-eponymous Alice greets readers, ensuring them that the title states the truth; she will let them in on everything they ever wanted to know about her life.

And Alice does tell all-at least, all that happens until age sixty. Her last hurrah essentially chronicles her entire adult life and all the ups and downs that come with it, which can seem a bit awkward as her tale switches through multiple age categories. Now I'll Tell You Everything deals with adult problems-marriage issues, raising children, watching yourself and everyone around you age-most of which are unexplored or dealt with differently in the majority of YA. For this reason, in addition to the fact that reading a series in order is common sense, I highly recommend starting with earlier novels about Alice before jumping into this one. Teenage readers used to YA are sure to appreciate this book more if they go into it already attached to the main character so they can avoid feeling disconnected as she sifts through strands of graying hair.

Even if this is someone's first encounter with Alice, though, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor will make him or her feel at home, building such a spectrum of bursting emotions that those who have never encountered them will still experience them through the characters. I laughed and loved, swooned and stressed, and mourned and memorialized along with Alice, even though, at age fifteen, I have never been to college or given birth. The author does such a thorough job describing the everyday life of a woman from eighteen to sixty that more inexperienced readers will develop a deeper understanding of the emotional aging process and learn what it is like to enter a new realm of a world they already knew, slowly, step-by-step, but surprisingly quickly in retrospect.

However, my favorite aspect of this novel is reminiscent of the ones before it: the way the storyline flows so naturally and realistically. None of these books adheres to the standard plot mountain taught in elementary school English lessons, instead stringing along a series of everyday events that make up a period in the true-to life world of one girl-turned-woman. This series covers almost fifty years full of countless events, so instead of overloading the reader, Naylor's style can cover one week in depth while passing over the next few years in a paragraph, resulting an a light, fluttery mood that allows readers to sit back and let the plot points wash over them. Because Alice's stories never lead up to one climax and feature a selection of conflicts rather than one big moment, readers can easily become engaged as the tale bobs along, reminding them of their own lives and somehow never becoming boring.

Amidst the alterations that make this story stand out from other YA novels and the familiarity that keeps it a nostalgic reminder of the past, Naylor wraps everything up in the final novel of her legendary series with her signature warmth and tenderness that I cannot even begin to quantify. Even twenty-eight years after the release of the first, reading an Alice book will always feel like returning home after a long and lonely stint away: welcoming, recognizable, and right. Now I'll Tell You Everything is the kind of book that makes readers want to envelop it in a huge hug, and I could not ask for a better, more poignantly cozy yet refreshingly new ending to such a well-loved, wonderful series.

9 comments:

  1. Nice review! I like your interpretation of the cover; it definitely makes sense. I haven't read any of these books, but as it is a series, I like that you DO get to "know everything" in a sense by the end.

    -lauren

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    1. You do get to learn everything and that is one of my favorite things about this series. In many cases, I love sad or uncomfortable endings, but this series's satisfactory closing fits it so well.

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  2. Holy crap! 25 Books!? That is a LOT!
    I don't know if I should start the series! It does seem like it's a good series overall with an excellent ending, so maybe I'll give it a go if I have time later on haha.
    It's interesting that this book chronicles the MC's life all the way up to the age of 60. Don't see too many books that do that nowadays.

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    1. There are a lot! That large of a series would definitely scare me off, but Naylor somehow manages to keep everything interesting. I don't know of any other author as good as she is at making day-to-day events interesting.

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  3. Whoa. I've been interested in reading this series before, but now I know I HAVE to. The thought of it taking on multiple ages makes me nervous, but really, I'm mostly intrigued. It sounds absolutely amazing. And I love that it didn't disappoint you and really ended the series nicely. Great review!

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    1. I love hearing that. And the series is constantly being banned, so that's even more motivation! The age thing could create nerves, but is IS intriguing. And luckily Alice is incredibly relatable, which helps a lot. I hope you enjoy!

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  4. Seeing that a series has zillion books is always a turn of for me. Alice sounds like a great character but I'm afraid that this book deals with topics that are too adult for me. I'm not sure we would connect. Great review :)

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    1. Those are legitamate concerns. Excessive series length is a turnoff, especially when plots are dragged out longer than initially intended (cough Sara Shepard cough) but somehow Naylor gets away with it. Still, it's probably best to pass this series up if you don't think you could connect because relating to Alice is a pretty big factor in your enjoyment of the stories.

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  5. I started reading Alice probably 15 years ago and although I wound up outgrowing her, I kept reading. I'm 25 now and really enjoyed this - obviously I can't relate to a lot of the stuff that happens to her later in life, but I found it really charming and poignant overall, and while it is a little rushed, that's sort of how life after school/uni IS - the years speed up.

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