Phyllis Reynolds Naylor has combined the frankness of Judy Blume's writing with the fun of L.M. Montgomery's stories, creating a likable protagonist that would be pals with Anne Shirley, were they contemporaries. Alice McKinley is, at times, awkward, uncertain, and shy; in other instances, she is bold, brave, and determined. She lives a good, clean life and makes good decisions most of the time, but is not afraid to ask questions and make her own decisions.
Alice lost her mother at a young age and barely remembers her. She adores her father, who works at a music store, and her older brother Lester. She has two best friends, one mama's girl and one slightly wild child.
Readers can grow with Alice. As the series progresses, Alice gets older, and the reading level (due to content) goes up too. The series tackles everything - name-calling, dating, religion, school, death of a parent, remarriage and stepparents, peer pressure, and more - without ever being preachy or saccharine. Alice discusses life issues and questions taboos with her father, brother and friends without shame, without fear - just openness and honesty. In turn, readers should feel encouraged to discuss these books with their families.
I recommend reading the books in order of publication:
ALICE IN LATE MIDDLE SCHOOL
The Agony of Alice - PG - ****
Alice in Rapture, Sort of - PG - ***
Reluctantly Alice - PG - ***
All but Alice - PG - ***
Alice in April - PG - ****
Alice In-Between - PG - ***
Alice the Brave - PG - ***
Alice in Lace - PG - ***
Outrageously Alice - PG - ***
Achingly Alice - PG - ***
Alice on the Outside - PG-13 - ***
THEN BETWEEN MIDDLE SCHOOL AND HIGH SCHOOL
The Grooming of Alice - PG-13 - ****
FINALLY IN HIGH SCHOOL
Alice Alone - PG-13 - ***
Simply Alice - PG-13 - ****
Patiently Alice - PG-13 - ****
Including Alice - PG-13 - ****
Alice On Her Way - PG-13 - ****
Alice in the Know - PG-13 - ****
Dangerously Alice - PG-13 - ***
Almost Alice - PG-13 - ****
Intensely Alice - PG-13 - ***
Alice in Charge - PG-13 - ***
Incredibly Alice - PG-13 - ***
Alice On Board - PG-13 - ***
IN COLLEGE AND BEYOND
Now I'll Tell You Everything (formerly known as Always Alice), the final volume in the series, follows Alice from her first day at college through much of her adult life.
Some of the books have been released omnibus-style, with three full novels bound in one super-thick oversized paperback. So if you pick up Please Don't Be True; I Like Him, He Likes Her; It’s Not Like I Planned It This Way; and You and Me and the Space In Between, make sure you check the table of contents and find out which books are inside. For example, Please Don't Be True is a collection of Dangerously Alice, Almost Alice, and Intensely Alice.
They have also released boxed sets of the books.
Naylor also wrote three prequels which feature Alice in elementary school. These are for kids who enjoy characters like Ramona Quimby, Judy Moody, and Anastasia Krupnik.
Starting With Alice - 3rd Grade - G - ****
Alice in Blunderland - 4th Grade - G - ***
Lovingly Alice - 5th Grade - G - ***
The official website offers book excerpts, reading group guides, and more.