Monday, January 23, 2012

Review: Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington

Alice Bliss
Author: Laura Harrington
Published: June 2, 2011
Genre: contemporary fiction
Hardcover: 320 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): When Alice Bliss learns that her father, Matt, is being deployed to Iraq, she's heartbroken. Alice idolizes her father, loves working beside him in their garden, accompanying him on the occasional roofing job, playing baseball. When he ships out, Alice is faced with finding a way to fill the emptiness he has left behind. Matt will miss seeing his daughter blossom from a tomboy into a full- blown teenager. Alice will learn to drive, join the track team, go to her first dance, and fall in love, all while trying to be strong for her mother, Angie, and take care of her precocious little sister, Ellie. But the smell of Matt is starting to fade from his blue shirt that Alice wears everyday, and the phone calls are never long enough. Alice Bliss is a profoundly moving coming-of-age novel about love and its many variations--the support of a small town looking after its own; love between an absent father and his daughter; the complicated love between an adolescent girl and her mother; and an exploration of new love with the boy-next- door. These characters' struggles amidst uncertain times echo our own, lending the novel an immediacy and poignancy that is both relevant and real. At once universal and very personal, Alice Bliss is a transforming story about those who are left at home during wartime, and a teenage girl bravely facing the future.

My Thoughts: I tend to shy away from coming of age novels, not because I don't like the age range of the characters (most are typically in their teens), but because it's such a different experience for everyone. I find that it can be difficult for an author to truly capture that moment in a person's life because it's so unique that if it's not done correctly, it's just too unreal. In Alice Bliss, Laura Harrington crafts a coming of age novel that is near perfection. Following the title character, we are taken into the small town world of the Bliss family that is turned upside down when the patriarch of the family, Matt, is deployed to Iraq. Not only does Alice have to navigate through her early teens without her dad at home, but she has to do it with my halfway around the world, in a war zone.

The best thing about this story is that nothing is over the top. Nothing is drawn out or unrealistic. I felt like I was reading someone's memoirs about their childhood in a small town. Harrington writes with such clarity and conviction; it's clear that she knows where she is taking her story and every detail adds to the story. There is nothing extraneous added to the story, nothing that is cluttering up Alice's tale. To me, this was just a great novel of a teen growing up with a father who is in the military. And although I never had a parent deployed, I felt like I could identify with Alice at points. There are so many things that she is experiencing that I could remember myself dealing with, too.

I look forward to reading more of Harrington's work in the future and seeing what her future topics will be. If you are looking fora story about military families or a young girl coming of age, then this book is a must read.

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