Book Review: Alice and the Fly by James Rice

Format: Paperback, won in a giveaway
Links: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Goodreads
Blurb: 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.


Review: Alice and the Fly is the kinda book that “jumps out at me“. The blurb, the themes, the genre; everything felt like “my kinda book” before reading. I hadn’t previously heard of this book or anything about it and having won it in a giveaway was just an extra little bonus but as I said, I liked the sound of it and it was sitting on my shelf for a while so I decided to give it a go.

Alice and the Fly is about a boy named Greg who has an unidentified mental health condition and is deeply terrified of “them” (them being spiders). Greg is now leading a somewhat normal life with his mother, straying cosmetic surgeon father and older sister, after past incidents took a turn on the family and is now just trying to navigate through school, family life, coming of age and love. The girl he loves, Alice, has problems of her own. But Greg hasn’t spoken to her – until now and soon her problems become his problems and Greg’s life takes a dizzying turn once again

This book made me strangely uncomfortable. A feeling I got since the first couple of chapters and that stayed with me through the majority of the book. I don’t know what it was and I can’t quite place my finger on it. But it just seemed… sad. It made me sad. Like, every element of the book made me just think “what a shame“. But somehow this wasn’t a totally bad thing because I couldn’t put it down. Boy, I have a very strange relationship with this book. Greg made me feel a bit weird – but that’s the impression he has on most people he meets so I guess that’s a good thing that I was able to feel the same emotions as characters in the book. 

The mental health aspect was the main focal point and element of this book and probably what most people who have read the book will immediately think about upon recollection. We’re not told of Greg’s diagnosis until quite a way into the book (don’t worry, I’m not going to reveal what it is here). You can take a couple of educated guesses on what he has because personally, I think it’s a lot more complex and he has a lot of other issues as well as the one that’s actually mentioned. But what do I know? I think the mental health aspect was done really well and sensitively and was well researched; all the stuff you’re supposed to say. But I think the “reactions” from other characters towards Greg’s issues were pretty perfect too. Perfect in the fact that not many people understood him or tolerated him or even bothered with him because of how he was perceived. And that was fu**ing sad. But unfortunately, all too common.

I think the book as a story – themes aside – lacked a bit of focus and direction. I was a bit confused at the ending and wondered if there would be more in the remaining 12 pages I had left to read but there wasn’t. I would have also liked to know more about Alice because in actual fact, we find out very, very little about her. Which is a shame because I think she could have been a fascinating character and hers and Greg’s friendship / relationship (if that’s what you want to call it at the moment) could have had a lot of potential. 

This book confused me really like my feelings towards it are a bit conflicted. As “coming of age” Young Adult stories about love, life, friends, school, parents etc go, this was pretty decent as it dealt with all of those tough areas of life but accentuated by the main character and his own personal problems. The characters didn’t pack too much of a punch for me. The only character I was truly interested in (aside from Greg) was Alice but as I mentioned, we didn’t find out an awful lot about her. Although it was narrated by Greg, so maybe that’s why – if he doesn’t know then we don’t know. And the storyline… I think that’s where the rating drops a little for me. It just didn’t feel “complete” or like these characters were taken full advantage of in the way of using them within a powerful, epic storyline.

It was good; not brilliant. Slightly two dimensional characters apart from Greg who we grow to know quite personally throughout. The storyline was lacking for me somewhat but the mental health aspect was very important and well executed. 

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10 thoughts on “Book Review: Alice and the Fly by James Rice

  1. I’m sorry it didn’t live up to the expectations, I sounded intrigued too but when you said it made you uncomfortable it didn’t sound like my kind of thing so thanks for being so honest! xx

    sophieannetaylor.com

    • I don’t know what it was that made me uncomfortable, I’m finding it really difficult to put my finger on. I wouldn’t discourage others from reading it though, I think a lot of people would love it.

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