Alice: From Dream to Dream
Giulio Macaione makes his US comic debut in Alice: From Dream to Dream, a beautifully illustrated graphic novel about forced empathy, having to learn more about others whether we want to or not. That’s a skill that needs more emphasis these days.
Alice and her family have moved back to Cincinnati from Chicago after her father lost his job. She’s forced to share a bedroom with her older brother, which is a problem. Alice shares the dreams of those she sleeps near, and he binges on horror movies, giving her nightmares.
On top of being sleep-deprived, she’s being bullied by a mean girl who’s jealous of Alice’s friendship with Jamie. He’s the only good part of Alice being back in town. They’ve been best friends since they were young, and he’s the only one who knows her secret.
Unfortunately, he may have a family secret of his own that affects Alice and her family. Most of the book consists of bringing these threads together. Particularly timely is how Alice’s family is struggling with money. They’re surviving, but a few shortcuts have to be taken that drive the plot, such as the shared room.
The expressive emotionalism of the characters makes for a smooth read. The idea of a secret ability that brings pain and struggle while needing to be kept hidden is something many teens will relate to, uncertain of how much they will be accepted for their true selves. (In the past, this idea manifested as superheroics; Alice’s more nuanced “power” has to be handled more carefully, which is more realistic.)
Macaione does an especially nice job with the dreamscapes, capturing how powerful the subconscious can be. A large part of the story takes place in Cincinnati’s Spring Grove Cemetery, and the feel of the location is helped by Macaione’s time in the city. All of the characters are coping with different kinds of tiredness — physical and mental — and their exasperation is sympathetic.
By the end, the reader feels for the characters so much that it’s a pleasure to see how everything works out. Alice: From Dream to Dream is a involving bit of escapism with some significant lessons about being kinder to and more understanding of each other. It’s also refreshing to see a kids’ adventure book where the adults are mostly helpful and supportive, instead of an enemy to hide from and mistrust.
(The publisher provided a digital review copy. Review originally posted at Good Comics for Kids.)