Alice and the Fly by James Rice

Alice and the Fly - James Rice

I was slightly underwhelmed by this book, so I’m not going to spend too long on it. I did, however, enjoy getting to know Greg, it’s just that ultimately I felt a little distanced from him.


Greg is a painfully shy teenager whose life is shadowed by phobias and obsessions due to his mental illness. His English teacher, Miss Hayes, is trying to help him in a kind of amateur psychologist way and subsequently sees him after school each day. She offers a kind of safe-haven from the world and most of the time they just sit in silence, but she has also suggested that Greg keep a journal where he can document his thoughts and feelings. It’s through this journal that most of the book is communicated. Greg thinks it’s a bit stupid not to write to anybody specific when making journal entries, so he address each one to a girl from his school, Alice, who also takes his bus. He’s never spoken to her, but she becomes integral to the plot the more we go along.


Pretty early on in the book we discover that there is more to Greg’s story than we first thought and his journal entries become interspersed with police interviews with his family and associates. We learn that something horrific has transpired, but we’re not sure of what. His entries, therefore, are from before the time of the incident.


The further along I went, the more distanced from Greg I felt. This was in part due to his mental decline, but it would have helped if there was more dialogue in the book. There wasn’t much dialogue at all and most of the book was confined to what Greg wrote. Because of this, the perspective of the reader was very limited. I understand this was needed to communicate his isolation, but it just fell a little flat for me.


The secondary characters, like his mother and sister, were  a bit of a clique and not particularly fleshed out.


The issues that were tackled, such as isolation, mental illness and bullying were handled in a very sensitive way and were probably the saving grace of the book.There were just too many things that didn’t add up. I mean, Greg’s father was a doctor, but seemed to know little or wasn’t interested, for that matter, in Greg’s mental state. Also, even though Greg didn’t speak much, I would have thought he would be seeing some sort of psychologist, but instead his teacher took up the initiative? I didn’t really understand that. Another thing was the ending. I hate with a passion ambiguous endings and I was nearly tearing my hair out trying to figure out what happened at the end. In reality though, it was probably plain enough, it’s just that I was listening to an audio version, which wasn’t the best by the way, and I think my attention wavered quite a bit.


Ultimately I enjoyed the earlier stages of the novel but it became too ambiguous for me.