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Miss Smithers    by Susan Juby order for
Miss Smithers
by Susan Juby
Order:  USA  Can
HarperTempest, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Melissa Parcel

Alice McLeod is moving up in the world. She attends an alternative high school, and finally has both a female friend and a boyfriend. She's been trying to branch out and become more active, rather than sitting home writing all the time. When a family friend asks Alice to be the Rod and Gun Club's representative in the Miss Smithers pageant, she goes against her ultra-liberal parents' wishes and joins the race.

Alice learns just how far she has to go when she begins to attend different pageant events. But the main thing she learns is that she needs to work on developing her interests and personality, because the other girls seem to have much more going for them than Alice does. This prompts Alice to set out on a quest to discover herself - by joining a Christian organization (where she signs a 'Virgin until Marriage' pledge, much to her parents' dismay), trying alcohol, and attending parties. Along the way, Alice chronicles her adventures and observations in articles for her 'zine. It's not supposed to be for public viewing, but due to a misunderstanding, gets distributed far and wide. Can Alice survive the embarrassment of publication of her private thoughts? And will the Miss Smithers contest free her from her outcast status?

Alice is a transparent heroine, easy to like. Her wry sense of humor is hilarious. For instance, her parents are militant vegetarians, and one night Alice and her brother sneak out to a restaurant and order steaks so they can try meat. The events that follow had me rolling with laughter. Alice never takes herself too seriously, and her sense of wonder at experiencing normal teen behavior is refreshing. The contrast between Miss Smithers and typical real life is intriguing. Alice's parents are so liberal that she has to defend her views whenever she dabbles in a conservative activity. Usually, it's parents who are straight-laced and young men and women who want to spread their wings, but it's the other way around here, which results in comedy.

Though this novel continues the story that began in Susan Juby's Alice, I Think, each book does stand alone. If you're interested in a humorous look at high school from an alternative viewpoint, Miss Smithers fits the bill perfectly.

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