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Review: Alice the 101st, vol. 1-2

Aristide Lang does not know how to read music. He doesn’t have formal training on the violin and his teacher is not famous or powerful. So how did he end up as the 101st student accepted into Mondonveille Music Academy? Usually the school only accepts 100 students per year, but occasionally they make an exception. Only in “Alice’s” case it seems like a mistake, rather than an exception. But his fellow students are in for a surprise when Alice is finally allowed to play his violin for them!

Alice the 101st, vol. 1-2
Chigusa Kawai
Age Rating: YA/16+
DMP/Doki Doki

Volume 1: June 2010, ISBN 9781569701669, 200 pages, $12.95
Volume 2: September 2010, ISBN 9781569701690, 208 pages, $12.95

Kawai has a lot of things to say about music and how its beauty can move people and about the work that goes into becoming an artist of any kind, but her message falls flat in the face of an unrealistic plot assumption. I was never able to believe that Alice would be accepted into a prestigious music school if he was unable to handle the fundamentals. The basics of reading music are everything, especially to a classical musician. Alice may have a perfect ear and a huge amount of natural talent, but without the foundation he needs, then accepting him at Mondonveille is just cruel. He cannot do the course work. That crucial plot point being wrong derailed much of my enjoyment of this series.

And that is unfortunate, since otherwise Alice the 101st is a cute little shojo. It is not deep and none of the characters stand out from the crowd in these first two volumes, but it has a light, enjoyable tone, which is an improvement over the angst of Kawai’s boys’-love-light series La Esperança (a companion series to Alice the 101st). There are a lot of details about music and the dedication required to truly master it which might turn off readers who are not as involved in the arts. But for teens who are themselves focused on becoming the best they can be at music or dance or theatre or another art, Alice and his classmates’ devotion will ring true.

Kawai’s art is as fluffy and shojo as her plot. She’s good at drawing pretty boys (girls are mainly sidelined in this series, with one exception), but many of her boys look too similar to make them easily identifiable. The setting is well-crafted, the pages filled with action or “shojo sparkles,” and the panels open enough to almost disappear into the background. Alice’s story is fairly tame, sticking to the bottom end of the 16+ age rating. Libraries with extra graphic novel budgets might consider adding this one, but it’s not a first or even second choice.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © DMP/Doki Doki.

Snow Wildsmith About Snow Wildsmith

Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.

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