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Alis Hardcover – Bargain Price, February 19, 2009
From School Library Journal
Grade 7–10—Alis, 15, is betrothed against her wishes to Galen, the 40-something minister of Freeborne, a "Community of The Book" in an imagined, horse-drawn past. Outraged, she escapes to Two Rivers, another Bookish Community, where she earns the enmity of Thomas, a conservative religious reformer. She meets and falls in love with Luke, who is forced to flee with his grandparents because of their philosophical disagreements with Thomas. She goes to the big bad City, where she finds her runaway brother leading a Dickensian gang of young cutthroats and part-time prostitutes. She gains an ally in Edge, a girl who defends herself with a knife, but seeing that life there is a dead end, Alis eventually returns home and meekly submits to marriage to Galen. She is relieved that he does not force her to sleep with him, and life continues apace until Edge shows up, is startled by Galen's sudden appearance, and fatally wounds him. Thomas soon accumulates enough circumstantial evidence to charge Alis with murder, setting up the climactic trial. The story may be compelling to the intended audience, but the plot winds back on itself overmuch, with many characters, some of whom are stereotyped as "good" or "bad" as much by their physical description as by their actions, dropped by the wayside. While sexual undercurrents, hypocrisy, and religious repression dominate the tale, in the end Alis and Luke ride off into exile a bit older and perhaps more worldly-wise, but little different, really, than if they'd done so 100 pages earlier.—Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Junior High School, Iowa City, IA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
This compelling debut novel is set in some other time, some other place, at the strictly religious Community of the Book. The Book, something akin to the Bible, has decreed, to her shock, that 14-year-old Alis is to marry one of the middle-aged Elders. So begins an engrossing saga that takes Alis away from the Community in a desperate effort to avoid the marriage. First, she leaves for a nearby Community to aid a friend, but the woman’s fanatical husband becomes an enemy. With the help of a young man, Luke, she escapes to the city to find her brother; but she is not prepared for the squalid, dangerous environment, and it drives her back to the marriage she doesn’t want. Eventually she’s accused of murder when her husband dies. These are just some of the high points in a story so action-packed and filled with twists that readers won’t anticipate the ending. First-timers usually don’t attempt such multi-layered stories, especially with religion at their core, but Rich pulls it off. Grades 9-12. --Ilene Cooper
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But that is not all. The desperate girl hatches a desperate plan. On the surface, she will appear to be persuaded that it is her fate to be married to Minister Galin. Yet she will find a way to leave their community. Her brother, Joel, ran away years ago, and people believe he went to the dangerous, sinful city. Now Alis is determined that somehow, some way, she will escape to the city and be reunited with Joel.
Alis performs her daily chores, helps her mother care for the ailing and elderly, attends the prayer meetings, and most important of all, fakes an agreeable attitude. Three months go by as Alis waits and watches for her chance. And then one day, it arrives. The sister of one of the community's young mothers visits. Mistress Sarah is a pitifully timid waif of a woman who becomes ill when it's time for her to return to her own community, Two Rivers, and to her husband. Alis suggests to Sarah that she should accompany her home. Sarah arranges for the Two Rivers healers to send a letter stating it would be best for her health if Alis joins her. Alis is ecstatic; she is sure this is her first step toward the city and Joel, and away from her community and Minister Galin.
In Two Rivers, though, she encounters Sarah's husband, Master Thomas. Alis soon realizes that the hateful Thomas is, at the very least, emotionally abusive to Sarah. She is surprised that he speaks slightingly of Minister Galin, insinuating that he is too gentle to be a preacher.
Two Rivers is in the middle of a political change, as harsh men such as Thomas are taking control. Thomas insists that Sarah accompany him to a public beating, but Alis spares her by volunteering to go with him. The event is a nightmare beyond anything Alis ever could have imagined.
Alis runs from the beating, sickened by the sight of the man's back being shredded. She meets the town's minister and his wife, Mistress Elizabeth. They are kind people, powerless to stop what is happening in their town. Alis offers to help Elizabeth care for the man who was beaten, and is relieved to move away from Thomas's home to stay with Elizabeth. Alis and the minister and Elizabeth's grandson, Luke, form a surprising bond.
Soon, though, Alis is accused of a crime. With Luke's help, she is on her way, helter-skelter, to the city. She can only hope to find her brother, as her life in the violent city takes one startling twist after another.
ALIS is a richly imagined book with a sympathetic character and a gripping plot. Alis's situation changes unpredictably (keeping the reader agreeably off-kilter), yet never feels unrealistic or contrived. Debut novelist Naomi Rich manages to blend adventure, terror and a bit of romance in a combination that will have readers turning pages far into the night.
--- Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon
But Alis gets a shocking surprise. Her parents announce she is to be married to the minister of Freeborne. A man she has grown up fearing and respecting, a man who is more than double her age.
Alis immediately sets to making plans to escape her fate. Years ago, her brother ran away to the City. Alis just needs to find a way to get there, because it is much too far to walk.
Her journey turns out to be both dangerous and enlightening. She meets people she never would have if she'd remained in Freeborne all her life. Alis even meets her true love, but in a world of strict religious rules and corrupted men, it won't be easy to hang on to the one she loves.
ALIS is so much more than a love story. It is a story of developing you own beliefs, questioning absolute authority, and finding out what is really important in life.
Reviewed by: Karin Librarian
She runs away, which is not a great idea since she doesn't have money or whatever you need to run away from home and SHE'S 14.
OK, so her plan is to go see her brother Jojo who also runs away from the community to "the city" years ago and basically disappears. And I am all like: That's a terrible plan. He could be dead and how is she going to find him? Never mind. Alis somehow manages to get help from a nice boy, Luke, who of course is smitten by her spirit. Along the way she also offends Thomas, a terrible man who is angry at everybody.
**SPOILER** She quickly runs into Jojo. (It must be a small city.) But then Jojo is not doing to well in the city. She then decides it's not too good to be in the city either so she runs back half way to Luke. That doesn't turn out too well too so she's like OK I am going to marry Galen after all. Now Galen turns out to be nice. But then he dies and Thomas comes back to make trouble for Alis. At the end Alis and Luke leave the community, riding off into the sunset.**END SPOILER**
So there is a lot of running away and back and around with no good plans, ever. But I do like the book. Alis is a spirited teenager. She makes bad decisions, many of them. And she finds out the hard way. Yes, it sucks to marry a man so much older than you, but there are things worse than that (like, prostitution). Alis thought she'd rather die than to marry Galen. Then she'd rather marry him than not-marrying him.
Many great messages:
Running away from loving parents is a bad idea;
Your life may suck, but it could be worse;
Everybody makes CHOICES. Sometimes you have to choose between the bad and the worse. Alis hates getting married to Galen but she admits that it is still her choice.
There are many moments that show Alis has grown. She decides to act civilly with Galen and her parents and she goes to the public assembly and reconnects with her friend Elzbet. These are very nice.
Two minor complaints
First: Thomas! What's the deal with him? Why does he pick on Alis so much? HAVE A LIFE!
Second: The end. I`d like the tone to be more somber than happy.
**SPOILER** I mean, this is no different than the first running away. Why does she think it's going to be different this time around? Is it ok this time because of Luke? Please. No. I like Alis because she is a strong and brave girl who sometimes makes mistakes like any human does. I don't need a boy savior to be the way out for her. I want Alis (and all young girls) to grow to be a strong and independent woman, AT LEAST EMOTIONALLY. No, I am not against boys. I am happy that she has a companion. I just want her to be more like, oh it's good to have someone because things are tough and I know that we may not be together in the future because who knows..., instead of being like oh Luke is with me now I'll be all ok because we love each other and he is my age so I will be so happy with him. **END SPOILER**
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