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I Belong

Review: Alice and the Fly by James Rice

Alice and the FlyTitle: Alice and the Fly

Author: James Rice

Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction

Series: N/A

Publication Date: January 15, 2015

Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages

ISBN-10: 1444790110 (Hodder & Stoughton)

ISBN-13978-1444790115 (Hodder & Stoughton)

Reviewed by: Zed


A spellbinding debut novel by an exceptional new young British talent.

This is a book about phobias and obsessions, isolation and dark corners. It’s about families, friendships, and carefully preserved secrets. But above everything else it’s about love. Finding love – in any of its forms – and nurturing it.

Miss Hayes has a new theory. She thinks my condition’s caused by some traumatic incident from my past I keep deep-rooted in my mind. As soon as I come clean I’ll flood out all these tears and it’ll all be ok and I won’t be scared of Them anymore. The truth is I can’t think of any single traumatic childhood incident to tell her. I mean, there are plenty of bad memories – Herb’s death, or the time I bit the hole in my tongue, or Finners Island, out on the boat with Sarah – but none of these are what caused the phobia. I’ve always had it. It’s Them. I’m just scared of Them. It’s that simple.

Quick & Dirty: An amazingly intense read about a teenage boy with mental issues and how his phobias and obsession take over his life. Creepy, morbid and definitely unusual, James Rice is an author to watch out for.

Opening Sentence: The bus was late tonight. It was raining, that icy winter rain, the kind that stings.

Excerpt: No

The Review:

This is the kind of story that haunts you even after you’ve finished reading it. I first thought that the main character was a girl because of the attention to detail, the thoughtful and quiet personality. Only when he introduced himself as Greg did I realise that this boy was rather odd.

The book is written from two perspectives: Greg’s entries in his journal, which are interspersed with the Detective’s interviews. Greg has been advised by Miss Hayes to write his thoughts in a journal, in an attempt to help him overcome some of his issues, and by reading these we glimpse a snapshot of Greg’s day, his obsession with Alice and his unusual habits.

Each interview is conducted with someone linked to Greg, such as his classmates, family members and teachers so that the Detective can learn more about Greg’s personality. The interviews take place after an ‘event’ unknown to the reader and the journal entries all lead up to this same ‘event.’ This mixture of journal entries and interviews, past and present, kept me guessing as to what actually happened, though I had my suspicions earlier on. With each interview, the reader is given another clue about the event but it’s not until the very end that the gruesome details are fully revealed.

How can I describe this book and do justice to the amazing writing? Honestly, I’ve never read anything like it. The detail in which James Rice captures Greg’s episodes and the panic that suffocates him is surreal. Clearly, Greg has issues and violent outbursts, but from his journal entries it’s near impossible not to sympathise with his character. He has no friends, his family treat him like an embarrassing burden and he is constantly bullied at school, referred to as ‘psycho.’ He tries so hard to be normal but it is almost like his body doesn’t listen to his brain. On numerous occasions, Greg tries to speak up and prove he is normal, but he can’t bring himself to speak, and it’s sad to see how his silence always makes things worse.

As you might have guessed, Greg is the fly from the title of this book. I thought this was a most appropriate likeness, given that Greg is always hovering near Alice in a stalker-like fashion so that no one notices him and those that do just get annoyed by his existence.

The only problem I had with this book was that I became a tad bit bored during the middle of the story because I felt that the build up was being dragged on longer than necessary. Alice and the Fly was a powerful read opening my eyes to the extremeness of some people’s phobias. Although it isn’t a book I plan to re-read given the depressing nature of the story, I will be looking out for further releases by James Rice because his writing style for his debut novel was amazing.

Notable Scene:

‘I can’t bump into her,’ Mum said. ‘Not like this.’

I couldn’t work out why. Mum was wearing her heels and her hair and makeup were perfect. She looked beautiful. She kept repeating the word ‘No,’ over and over, under her breath. ‘No, no no, no, no.’ Then she turned to me and said, ‘Just promise me, if she sees us, just promise me you’ll try and be normal.’

I didn’t reply to that because I didn’t know how to reply, I didn’t know how I could promise something I had failed to do my whole life.


FTC Advisory: I purchased my own copy of Alice and the Fly. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.


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