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.
Published by Hodder & Stoughton in January 2015, Alice and the Fly is James Rice's debut novel.
Greg is a lonely, isolated, strange boy. He lives a life surrounded by people, but he feels totally alone. His mind works in a different way to those around him, he wants to be invisible, but his lisp, his scratching, his fits make him stand out. These are the things that make the other kids call him 'psycho', and point and laugh at him.
Miss Hayes is Greg's English teacher. Miss Hayes thinks that if Greg writes things down in a journal, then maybe things could get better. Greg's journal becomes a letter to Alice, the girl on the bus, the girl with the long red curls who wears sunglasses and is prettier than Audrey Hepburn. Greg has never spoken directly to Alice, but he is a little obsessed by her .... but not as obsessed by the thought of coming across one of Them.
Alice and the Fly is a disaster story. In his journal, Greg pours out his innermost feelings, about his Mother, who spends all day every day redesigning their already perfect home; his Father, the 'breast man' plastic surgeon who sometimes doesn't come for days; his sister, obsessively rehearsing for the Christmas Dance Fantastical, not eating, comparing herself with the other Vultures (Greg's word for her friends and classmates). The disaster that is coming is so obvious to the reader, for it is the reader who is allowed into Greg's mind, who wants to understand him. Those around him are more concerned about their own lives than the odd boy who likes to watch old Hollywood movies and uses parcel tape to ensure that his room is not invaded by Them.
Every once in a while I start a new book and almost immediately, the hairs on the back of my neck prickle and I know, I just know, that this book is going to be one that I will be talking about for years. Alice and the Fly is one of those books, just as Matthew Crow's In Bloom and Nathan Filer's The Shock of the Fall are too.
James Rice says that Alice and the Fly is semi-autobiographical and the authenticity and realism of his writing is absolutely heartbreakingly wonderful. His ability to get into the troubled mind of a teenage boy who is suffering so much is startling. Rice does not hold back, his portrayal of the cruelty of some people towards those that they don't understand is so well done. The portrait of a modern, dysfunctional family; on the outside wealthy, shiny and happy, but underneath, decaying, hiding and denying is frightening real.
I am delighted and honoured to have to have had the opportunity to read Alice and the Fly pre-publication, and I am certain that this is going to be a smash hit in 2015, and that James Rice has a very successful writing future ahead of him.
My thanks to Lovereading and Hodder & Stoughton who sent my copy for review.
James Rice lives in Liverpool. In 2011 he completed an MA in Writing at Liverpool John Moores University and has since finished his debut novel, – the first chapter of which won the Writing On The Wall Festival’s novel-writing competition ‘Pulp Idol’. He also writes short stories, several of which have been published, and writes songs with his friend Josh, which he sings in a very high-pitched voice people have charitably referred to as ‘unique’.
He is currently working on his second novel.
Follow him on Twitter @James_D_Rice