ALICE BY HEART by Steven Sater


Age Range: 14 - 18
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A World War II–era girl escapes the harsh reality of the Blitzkrieg through stories from her childhood favorite, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

As Alice Spencer hides out from bombings on a London Underground platform, crammed into a too-small and squalid space and cared for by nurses and doctors who seem impersonal to the point of cruelty, all she can think about is her friend Alfred, quarantined in another part of the platform. A domineering Red Cross nurse keeps them apart, but Alice finds respite in retelling the Wonderland stories to herself and remembering the bucolic days when she and Alfred would act out scenes together. Wonderland and war blur together until Alice must decide which world is truly worth living in. Playwright and lyricist Sater (A Purple Summer, 2012, etc.) thoughtfully explores the parallels between Lewis Carroll’s topsy-turvy universe and the surreality of life in wartime; the novel is an adaptation of his existing off-Broadway musical of the same name, and it is easy for readers to imagine a lush theatrical rendition of the visuals and themes at hand. However, the novel reads like a consolation prize for those unable to attend the real show; the prose is long-winded, complacent, and solipsistic, and the story progresses at a deathly slow pace. All major characters are white.

Reads like a playbill; save your attention for the musical. (author’s note, musical credits, photo credits) (Fabulism. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 4th, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-451-47813-9
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2019