Author: Alan Shea
Release date: 3rd March 2008 UK
Genre: Historical Fiction
Target audience: 10+
UK Publisher: Chicken House
Twelve-year old Alice is growing up in a grey world of old bombsites, in post war London. It's a tough life made harder by her difficult step-dad. Alice's escape is her imagination, which always brightens her day. But when a new boy called Reggie starts school, her mind begins playing tricks on her. She seems oddly drawn to him and whenever they are together the world becomes a more exciting and colourful place. A place where imagination appears to become real: where a bubble-gum machine can suddenly explode into a thousand coloured balls, a handful of fireworks become the greatest show ever, and a row on the lake becomes a terrifying adventure. It seems that together, they can do extraordinary things, but what is their story, and how will it end?
This is a story about Alice Makin, a twelve-year old girl growing up in post-war London, coping with ordinary, as well as slightly extraordinary problems. It is also a story about her friend Reggie, the boy she meets at school after she tries to save him from the local bullies, the Spicer brothers. In its essence, The Amazing Mind of Alice Makin shows the ups and downs of growing up, of coping with life and with the transition from innocence to experience. Most importantly, it is a story about friendship and family.
Alice is a witty, active girl with a great, slightly over-active imagination. She lives with her mother and stepfather, and while her mom loves her and tries to give Alice as much as she can during those hard times after the end of the Second World War, Alice's stepfather is quite a mean man, picking on Alice and trying to make her life miserable. Alice is a fighter, though, and she won't allow herself to be trampled by the likes of her stepdad Alfie. She spends her days with her neighbours and friends, mostly Reggie. But once she starts hanging out with Reggie, strange things begin to happen, both lovely and scary, and Alice is very confused, yet determined to get to the bottom of the strange matter.
The novel offers some delightful characters. Alice is only a little girl, yet she is full of fire and has a strong, determined spirit. Reggie is more quiet and shy, but with Alice he is open and there is a connection between them that might entail more than meets the eye. Norman, their friend, keeps pretending to be a soldier on a mission of destroying Nazis in England, seeing Nazis everywhere he goes. It is only a game; it is only a way to live in a post-war world. All the children try their best to cope and be happy. I loved reading about these children. I felt a lot of sympathy for them and they managed to endear themselves to me, for which I must definitely compliment the author, as he created very likeable and life-like children with moving, intriguing stories. My favourite part was the friendship between Alice and Reggie. Their relationship has its ups and downs, and it felt like a genuine relationship to me, very natural and realistic.
The story is narrated from Alice's point of view and I think the author really captured a child's essence well. It really felt as if a twelve-year-old child had been narrating the story. I loved seeing Alice's world through her eyes, as she sees it in a vivid, colourful way.
The plot is delightful and offers comfort as well as tension to the reader. I was shocked by a major revelation, but in a good way, as I think the characters involved in the revelation deserved that sort of happiness. At the heart of the novel is the story of Alice and her family, as well as the story of Reggie and his mysterious background. There is a supernatural element that is a minor element of the story, but it definitely makes for a delightful bonus. A pinch of magic to spice up one's day!
My one complaint is about the ending. There was a conclusion and it is a happy ending, which brought a smile to my face, but I would like to know what happens to Alice and Reggie after that point. Still, it is only a minor complaint.
All in all, the novel was a quick, warm read that left me with a comfortable feeling. If you believe in the child in yourself, I recommend this novel to you. You will not be disappointed.
Becky says: Aww... what a lovely review Irena. It sounds like you were rather attached to the characters. I always want to know every detail about a character's story even when the novel is finished. That is the reason I love a great epilogue. I like to know they lived happily ever after.
Both our thanks go to Chicken House for sending the book to review.