A wide-ranging author--who has proved herself adept at fantasy, the teen-age novel, humor, and historical fiction--writes a funny, perceptive story about the summer before junior high: 12-year-old Alice's Dad calls it "The Summer of the First Boyfriend." Alice and Patrick were good friends all through sixth grade, but now their friendship is blossoming into something more. Alice, yearning for the advice she would have had from her mother (who died seven years ago), does her best to figure out how she should behave: Is is essential to have a boyfriend when entering seventh grade? What if she hasn't just brushed her teeth when Patrick wants to kiss her? She has several sources of contradictory advice--Aunt Sally in Chicago (Alice lives in Maryland) is willing but often out of date; her two closest friends are as concerned about the minutiae of "rules" as Alice; Dad and older brother Lester, while nice, have a definitely male point of view--though they are known to come through with sensible help when needed. Naylor affectionately captures the angst and humor of this turning-point age without a trace of condescension. A lively, authentic story, with refreshingly pleasant characters--one that may help readers to realize (as Alice does at summer's end) that adapting to everyone else's prescriptions is less important than being oneself.