Alice Dyson has her eyes on the prize in her final year of school: concentrate solely on her studies so she can graduate with top marks. No distractions wanted! But the universe has other plans in store for her. One being Teddy Taualai, the school’s notorious troublemaker who has suddenly taken a shine to Alice. And the other is conflict with her best (and only) friend May, who appears to be slowly growing apart from Alice, much to her despair.
One of the best things about this novel was that I liked the way friendship was presented in all of its multifaceted glory.
Being friends with someone is oftentimes fun, messy, comforting, complicated, heartfelt, heartbreaking and surprising. As that well-known theme song goes, “So no one told you life was gonna be this way!” (*insert clapping here*) Alice has been best friends with May since they were little, but Alice is beginning to feel as though she’s not enough for May anymore. Especially after Teddy Taualai enters their lives and stirs things up.
“May loves how different her school life is now. For her I think it’s a dream come true. She loves that she has more friends, like an actual friend group instead of just me. And though her new group of friends may not be a particularly popular one, which I’m pretty positive is her actual dream, she still credits Teddy Taualai for being the first person to draw us out of our self-imposed high school isolation. Or that’s how she puts it, anyway.” (pg. 50-51)
While Alice is having difficulties in her friendship with May, she’s also navigating a new friendship with Teddy. And to complicate matters further, there’s also a spark of attraction between them that she can’t shake no matter how much she tries to ignore it! Watching how the friendship slowly evolves into something more between Alice and Teddy is really lovely to witness.
Being in a relationship wasn’t on Alice’s radar, and she often gets flustered whenever Teddy shows signs of flirty behaviour. But she’s definitely intrigued by him and the more she gets to know Teddy, the more comfortable she becomes in reciprocating the banter and affection. On paper, they may be opposites in their personalities and how they’re labelled at school, but what they have together is endearing and meaningful.
“I try and remember the last time I had this much fun, the last time I felt so calm on the inside, like I didn’t have to worry about school and home and May.
But then I remember. It was weeks ago, on the last day of summer, when I went to the beach with my friends.
With Teddy Taualai.” (pg. 136)
I liked that Alice was an introspective and empathetic character but she also had her flaws. The lure of the popular crowd never appealed to Alice, and she’s quite content doing her own thing (I too often feel dread at the thought of attending big parties – unless someone cranks out the 90s nostalgia playlist, then it’s on yo). It was also interesting to see the struggles Alice faced with her family, particularly her mum who seems quite distant and often prefers to hear about her daughter’s good grades in lieu of actual conversations with her. And while I didn’t always agree with Alice’s actions in the book, I understood they were coming from a place of feeling overwhelmed or unsure of herself. Life in general is a wild ride, but that last year of school is always such a rollercoaster/ferris wheel/ghost train/carousel of mixed emotions!
Making Friends With Alice Dyson was such a lovely, charming read and I can’t wait to see what Poppy comes up with next.
If you get the chance then please also check out Poppy’s website. This is her debut novel & she has some really cool blog entries chronicling all the things she’s been through publishing her first book.