I’m never sure how I feel about diary-style narration in books. On the one hand, it allows the author to convey a very particular voice, but on the other hand, it can really limit the scope of the plot to what the protagonist witnesses – especially when the narrator isn’t a reliable one.
Alice and the Fly has an intriguing protagonist in that he has a mental illness that comes through in the writing. The story gets told through diary entries, beginning with his bus trip. Greg is simultaneously a difficult and an easy character to relate to. On the one hand, he’s a shy character who doesn’t fit in at school – most people can identify with that somewhat.
On the other hand, he takes anti-psychotic drugs for his condition, which is something that not as many people can identify with.
Greg has a lot to deal with in his life – his father is always working (as a plastic surgeon), his mother is constantly preoccupied with remodelling the living room and his sister is popular, unlike him. Add to that his strange quirks – some related to his condition and some not – and he finds himself constantly isolated and obsessing over a girl, Alice.
There are a lot of moving parts in this book and for the most part, they are handled beautifully. Rice really brings us into the world and the mind of Greg. Statistically, those with mental illness are much more likely to be on the receiving end of violence than to be the ones committing violence, and the book touches on that, showing Greg dealing with a lot of bullying and violence too.
Throughout the book, a story gets slowly pieced together with police interviews woven between the diary entries. The only problem with this is that the end, the pieces all come together too well. Reality and well, unreality, get too clearly defined and all the mystery is dissolved.
Personally, I’d prefer if the mystery around the story stayed a mystery, thus allowing the readers to make up their own minds.
Alice and the Fly is released on the 27th January, 2015.