Alice By Heart

Razorbill. Feb. 2020. 240p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780451478139.
Gr 7 Up–Fifteen-year-old Alice Spencer and her best friend Alfred have been inseparable for many years. Having first bonded over Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, the two continue to find joy in sharing and acting out the book they know by heart. This escape from reality becomes especially meaningful as Alfred’s body is weakened from tuberculosis. However, when their neighborhood is ravaged by the bombs of World War II, the two must take refuge with other traumatized children in London’s Underground. As Alfred’s condition rapidly worsens, the dispassionate medical staff quarantine him. Feeling helpless, Alice becomes determined to reach Alfred, and her obsession with bringing Wonderland to him again causes reality and fantasy to bleed together. The contrast of the stark reality of wartime London with the bizarre landscape of Wonderland is intriguing, especially when the two worlds begin to merge. Likewise, many descriptive lines in the book are gorgeously poetic. However, the stream-of-consciousness writing style and constant shifting from past to present, and from reality to fantasy, can make this a frustrating read. The dreamlike quality of the narrative leaves readers unsure of what is going on beyond a certainty that none of it will end well.
VERDICT Recommended for true fans of Lewis Carroll’s original novel and of nontraditional wartime stories, though it may be too disjointed for casual readers to enjoy.

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