Bad Alice by Jean Ure

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Bad Alice by Jean Ure

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Loralei Haylock
Reviewed by Loralei Haylock
Summary: This cautionary tale is harrowing, disturbing and should be read by everyone over the age of twelve.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: October 2008
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0340959893

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When Duffy's Mum takes his sister to America for an operation, Duffy goes to stay with his Nan. Duffy loves his Nan, but really, she doesn't have a clue. To make his stay more bearable she tries to pair him off with Steven, but he's exactly the kind of tough nut kid Duffy has spent his life trying to avoid. He would much rather just stay inside and play on his computer.

Then Duffy meets Alice, bold, bad Alice who lives in the house opposite. Steven calls her a raving loony, and even Nan says she's trouble, but Duffy likes her. She isn't fazed by his Tourettes and just seems to 'get' him. Despite Nan's warnings that she makes things up and can't be trusted, Duffy befriends her.

But things aren't all right in Alice's house. Her sister Sarah has problems, and everyone makes excuses for her, but Duffy thinks she's manipulative and deliberately trying to sabotage Alice. Then Alice shows him a story she wrote, Malice in Wonderland, a story that Duffy thinks is funny at first, but becomes increasingly disturbing with each page. Their adoptive father, Big Norm, from Nan's church, is a huge man with a huge personality. Everybody thinks he's a saint for taking on Alice and Sarah, but what is going on behind closed doors?

This book is not easy to read. Ure's cleverly crafted story starts as a light tale but spirals downwards into the darkness people can harbour in their souls. It is harrowing and disturbing, and should be read by everyone over the age of twelve.

What makes this book so memorable and brilliant is the way it takes you completely by surprise. Reading the first few pages you would be forgiven for thinking it was a story about two teenage misfits finding friendship, about Duffy coming to terms with his Tourettes and his baby sister's illness. But the further into the story you progress the more it becomes apparent that something else is going on between the lines. I found myself unable to put it down. It's like a black hole sucking you in.

This cautionary tale encourages children to realise that not everything is always as it seems, and that adults can be wrong. For adults, it is a stark warning about the wool we pull over our own eyes when it comes to the unpleasant things people are capable of. Bad Alice is a haunting, excellent book.

My thanks to the publishers for sending a copy.

Older teens might enjoy Meet Me At The Boathouse by Suzanne Bugler, another great book that deals with difficult issues.

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Annelle said:

Bad Alice is an excellent book which I recommend to, like said, anyone over the age of twelve. It was a complete accident that I should come across this book in the library and since I was short for reading material, I simply took the book home (without reading the blurb and only just glancing at the cover.) I don’t regret it one bit. Actually, I am trying to get other members of my family to read it (laughs...)

Bad Alice, although seeming like a child friendship story where the children sort out their issues together- it is this but so much more... As we get deeper into the book, it gets darker and intertwined with Alice and Wonderland themes -The book takes many turns and left me with a haunted, shivery feeling at the end.

Five Star. Excellent. Would totally read it again.