Two stars, read in October 2013 (but four stars for the whole Alice series).
I was really disappointed with this book, the last in the series. If you were an active fan all along—like, keeping up with the author’s website and writing in your suggestions for the series—you may have been less surprised than I was by the last book. But the surprise was a significant part of my dissatisfaction. (No spoilers in this post except the general outline of the book.)
Each of the twenty-seven previous books, including the three prequels, covered a space of four months. First semester of the school year, second semester, summer. Every time. And I really liked this, because it allowed the detail and pacing that made you really feel like Alice was a person you knew, not just a character; it was like her life was happening in real time.
This book covered forty years. In the first place, the name was confusingly changed because the publisher thought it should be . . . Just, you know, because. Modernizing, maybe? So the title doesn’t fit with the ones preceding it, and it’s over 500 pages long, so it’s different from every other book in the series in just about every way.
Then, the pacing made no sense. Where each of the other books had handled one semester at a time, this one had Alice starting college and finishing the year just a few pages later—mid-chapter. Once college ended, time went even faster and more unevenly; three or four years would be skipped in one sentence, followed by several pages describing a conversation or a trip to the doctor’s office.
A friend’s review said that this felt like reading fanfiction, and now I know exactly what she meant. It wasn’t like a real book in the series; it felt more like something an author would throw together ten years after the end of the series to appease fans who’d been begging to know how everything turned out.
If I’d gone in with that expectation, I still would have thought the writing was subpar, but at least I wouldn’t have been utterly baffled for the first several chapters. And I wish I had known, because my initial confusion really ruined my mood for the rest of the book. At this point, I’m simultaneously glad that the series is over and sad about being glad. I still think the Alice series is one of the best coming-of-age series a kid could read, but its lackluster ending leaves me resigned rather than satisfied.