“Alice McKinley is going to college! And everything, from her room to her classes to her friends, is about to change. Stoically, nervously, Alice puts her best foot forward…and steps into the rest of her life.
Will Alice’s dream of becoming a psychologist come true? Are she and her BFFs destined to remain BFFs? And with so many miles between them, will Alice and Patrick stay together…or break up for good? Will there be baby Alices in her future? As Alice well knows, life isn’t always so predictable, and there are more than a few curveballs waiting to be thrown her way.
This is it. The grand finale. Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Alice McKinley will be revealed!”
-Synopsis from Goodreads
I was putting off reading this forever because it’s the last Alice book and I didn’t want to have to say goodbye to one of my favorite characters. But, we need our comfort reads now more than ever and I really, really needed a pick-me-up book. So I started reading this just after my birthday and finished it in less than four days. It was a whirlwind, to say the least.
Everything Means Everything
First of all, the word “everything” in the title really truly means everything. The first two hundred or so pages of this book are all about Alice’s college years. There was so much to cover that the years overlapped right between chapters. I found myself having to take breaks in between chapters to digest what had just happened. For as many details as we get, I would say this book is very much a snapshot of the rest of Alice’s life from the point of the last book’s ending and onward. We get all the good stuff and everything in between, but at a much faster pace than previous books.
Not only is Alice’s life changing and taking shape as she gets older, but so are the lives of everyone around her. We get to see and hear about her brother Lester’s life, her dad and Sylvia, and of course all of her friends, plus Patrick. For people I have never met, (who are in fact not real!) every new life event felt like an emotional roller coaster watching them grow and change.
Once again, the ages where Alice was really figuring things out, the early college years in particular, were so familiar to me that my heart really went out to her, as it has in past books.
Post-College and Beyond
The second half of the book covers the rest of Alice’s life after college. Reader, I was not ready for what was about to happen next.
First of all, again, the pacing. We had about three hundred pages to get through Alice’s life from mid-twenties until her late seventies – what!? Marriage, kids, career, all were covered at lightning speed, both the good times and the bad.
I think the hardest things to watch were the struggles she and Patrick had with their teenage daughter, and Alice having breast cancer. Of all my favorite fictional characters, this was not one I wanted to see experiencing that. But this was so typical of an Alice book, to put her in such a tough situation and really showcase how she is able to handle everything seemingly happening all at once.
A few of my favorite moments, in no particular order: Alice’s brother Lester becoming a father of triplets at the ripe old age of forty-six and, wait for it, one of them being named Hannah; Alice and Patrick living abroad with their family in Barcelona for two years; all of the positive change Alice was able to enact on the lives of her students while working as a counselor; and finally, the time capsule opening in the final chapter, and when Alice and all her former classmates gravitated towards the swings for an impromptu celebration after reading the letters they wrote to their future selves when they were in sixth grade.
Not Really A Goodbye
The ending was perfect for the way these books have been written, and I’m surprised I didn’t guess sooner how it was going to end. It was bittersweet though because I don’t know when I will re-read these books especially now that I’ve seen Alice’s entire life. If or when I ever do, I’ll start from the beginning with those first few books that I never read, since I started with the high school years.
Alice will always be one of my favorite characters, a fictional friend that I think of often. I’m incredibly thankful to Phyllis Reynolds Naylor for keeping up with the series as long as she did, and for writing it in the first place. It’s always so hard when you reach the end of a book you love, let alone a series like this. But with a character as impactful as Alice has been for me and so many other readers, it really isn’t an ending because she stays in your mind like an old friend, long after you have finished reading.