Dear Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Thank You

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When I moved to Texas before the sixth grade, going to get a new library card was one of the first things my family did after our cross country move. The move was not truly difficult until it actually happened. I understood that I was moving far away from everything I knew for pretty much my entire life but it wasn’t until the first night in my new bed in my new room that is actually hit me – summer was almost over and I was a Texan. Going to the library and finding books helped me feel a little more at home.

My new Texas library had lists and lists of suggested books for girls my age. I have always loved books that are realistic and easily relatable to my own life and experiences so I immediately searched for those. I quickly found and fell in love with the Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor thanks to the Barbara Bush public library.  A discovery for which I will always be thankful.

Over the next three years and all throughout high school, I grew up with Alice as we experienced life’s firsts, joys, and hardships. The Alice books tackled real life issues such as death, love, friendship, disability, queerness, racism, and teen pregnancy without seeming preachy or unrealistic. Alice is familiar with the reality of death. Her mother died when she was young, along with the deaths of her favorite middle school teacher when Alice is a volunteer at the local hospital, and when the bully she befriend kills herself when they are in the eighth grade. Alice and her two best friends also experience love through each other, the boys they date, and their unique families. Alice’s life was incredibly relatable to mine and  through Alice I was able to see my experiences were both unique and normal. Alice was my first friend in Texas and helped me through more than Phyllis Reynolds Naylor probably ever imagined as I experienced many of the things I read about in the Alice books. I dealt with the death of my grandpa, my first love, among other issues that I saw within the books and my real life. Along with relating to my life, Alice had a unique and full life. I loved reading about her job at her dad’s music shop; the hangouts she had with her friends; the relationship between her and her brother; and the lives of her two best friends – Pam and Elizabeth. I was amazed by how often she bought eyeliner in the later, high school books. These are just a few of my favorite moments in Alice’s life and I am sure I could never name them all.

Similar to Alice, I met my first boyfriend (who was also a drummer) at school. We attempted to take our high school relationship long distance in college like Alice and Patrick.  I had always seen many parallels between my relationship and Alice’s and was excited for this new adventure. Although our relationship did not survive due to a myriad of things, he gave me one of the greatest birthday presents ever; one that I will treasure forever. For my twentieth birthday, he gave me a signed copied of final Alice book. He had found Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s email address and had shared our high school love story. She wrote me a handwritten note and signed both the book and the poster. I cried as I unwrapped the present, I had been given the gift I never knew I always wanted.

Despite always having the book on my shelf, I still have not read the autographed and final book. I am not sure if I’m ready for Alice to be over or discovering an ending I am not happy with. I doubt Naylor is capable of the latter but the unknown and closure are both scary. Someday I will read the book and experience the happiness that has been written for one of my best friends. Until then, I will continue to cherish the gift and the many happy memories I have of the Alice series.

Hannah Nobbe : Self-proclaimed Riot Grrl with an affinity for lipstick, spaghetti, and all things velvet