Alice and the Fly by James Rice

Monday, November 30, 2015

Alice and the Fly has to be the strangest book I have read all year.

This debut from James Rice presents Greg, a teenage loner living within the confines of his own mind, interacting mutely with his peers and dipping in and out of manic episodes of paranoia and a fear of Them – beasts unknown to the reader yet terrifying all the same.

Delving into the mind of a person living with schizophrenia is a bold move and one that has to be executed with expertise and minimal melodrama. James Rice does both of these with ease and consistency, creating a character that is both convincing and tragic.
 
Flitting between the diary entries of an isolated teenager and transcripts from police interviews with Greg’s classmates and family members, you see a warped view of the world and the head space in which Greg inhabits. Passages switch from observational lucidity to strewn sentences with scatter-gun punctuation to incessant ramblings. External characters such as teachers, his beloved  heroine Alice and his family only exist within the pages of Greg’s diary or their brief appearances in police interviews which means you never know how much of Greg’s story you can believe. All you know is that he is frightened of Them to the point where he has visible reactions of vomiting and black outs and that since one night at a party, no one has seen or heard from him.

Greg is a would-be hero held up in a Fun House mirror. All of his actions have the right source but the way in which the world sees him is tainted and infected with judgement and ignorance. Bold, brave and beautifully delivered, this book took my breath away.

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