CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 6. . . .October 9, 2015
Falling for Alice.
Dawn Dalton & others.
Melbourne, Australia: Vine Leaves Press (Distributed in Canada by Ingram Book Company), 2015.
122 pp., trade pbk., $18.00.
Alice (Fictitious character: Carroll).
Carroll, Lewis, 1832-1898-Characters-Alice.
Grades 7-12 / Ages 12-17.
Review by Ann Ketcheson.
New Alice. New Wonderland. New stories to love.
Our short stories in Falling for Alice are written as homage to Carroll’s creativity and exploratory spirit. Everyone benefits from a bit of make-believe and nonsense every now and then, right? We’ve been creative with Alice and her world, and added a hefty dose of our own imaginations.
This is not your mother’s Alice.
Happy 150th birthday, Alice, my dear! You look wonderful for your age. [From the “Introduction” to the book]
This short story collection both pays tribute to Alice in Wonderland and takes the characters into new places and situations never dreamed of by Lewis Carroll.
In “Drunk,” Dawn Dalton gives readers a needy and provocative Alice who is, literally, thirsting for normal human emotions and for someone with whom she can share them. Is she an alcoholic? Is she a vampire? Dalton gives her characteristics which make Alice hard to describe and understand but interesting and intriguing nonetheless. Her new friend Lewis accepts her for who she is and eventually is able to help her make the transition back to a more real and normal world.
“Alice at Woodstock” takes the main character back to the peace and love era of the late Sixties. Her band replaces her, and Alice begins to wonder who she is since she has put away her guitars and feels she is no longer a musician. When she seriously considers giving up music for good, a song by Jefferson Airplane (“White Rabbit”, of course!) transports her to the Woodstock festival. An odd woman approaches Alice and tells her that creativity is critical and not to “quench the spirit”. At the end of the story, Alice appreciates herself more for who she truly is. Readers will be pleased that Shari Green provides a Woodstock playlist of the songs and artists featured in the story.
The third story, “White Rabbit Rx”, features an Alice who is a present-day high school student obsessing over her weight and body image. The Pharmacist, aka the local drug dealer, suggests that Alice try a new drug called White Rabbit which is guaranteed to make her thin. That it does, drastically, and Alice realizes that she is no happier in a thin body and that those who claim to be her friends make fun of her regardless of her size. Eventually writer Denise Jaden has The Pharmacist and Alice become friends who understand that time and communication are the keys to both health and relationships and no quick fix is really necessary.
Kitty Keswick chooses to take Alice to outer space in “Wormhole to Wonderland”. Alice is part of a team tasked with creating a new world once the earth has been destroyed. She is designated to be the person who brings literature to the new world, and consequently novels are continually downloaded into her head. She deals with creative works but is not allowed to be creative herself. Eventually she is able to follow a white rabbit and escape from the dominating Dinah, her Artificial Intelligence guide. In other words, she escapes her fate and liberates herself from those who wish to program her into being someone she isn’t.
“Wonder in the Stars” also places Alice in outer space, this time as a teenager who has been chosen to help out on Wonder, the newest International Space Station. Alice feels she was picked because of her astronaut father rather than for her own abilities, and her self-esteem takes a further blow when she doesn’t adapt as quickly as her teammates to the new environment and her boyfriend Wyatt breaks up with her as soon as they arrive at the space station. Ironically, it is Alice who, despite her misgivings, completes a spacewalk which saves the life of famous astronaut Mike Lovell, the head of the space station. Author Cady Vance gives her readers a young woman whose strength and determination eventually help her conquer her fears.
The book opens with a brief history of Alice in Wonderland for those who might be unfamiliar with the original work by Lewis Carroll. Each of the five stories has echoes and hints of the plot and characters of the classic story, but none of them follow it absolutely. Instead, the authors have played with the idea of Alice and taken her into both modern and futuristic settings. Any Alice fan will appreciate the way the authors have created something new and different as they pay homage to Carroll.
While the stories vary greatly in plot and setting, there is an overall coming-of-age theme in all of them. Alice learns to understand who she truly is in each story and to appreciate herself. Whether dumped by a boyfriend, overweight and disliked by others or tossed out of the band she founded, each Alice is stronger and more self-assured by the end of her story. The stories are an interesting read on a superficial level but more insightful teen readers will have an understanding and appreciation of the deeper themes underlying the various Alice characters. This collection is a fitting tribute to Lewis Carroll, and he would surely be enthusiastic about each and every one of these latest Alice creations.
Ann Ketcheson is a retired high school teacher-librarian and teacher of English and French who lives in Ottawa, ON.
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