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All Alone in the Universe

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"Before last summer Maureen and I were best friends....At least I think we were. I don't know what happened exactly. As some people who get hit by trucks sometimes say,'I didn't see anything coming.'" When her best friend since the third grade starts acting as though Debbie doesn't exist, Debbie finds out the hard way that life can be a lonesome place. But in the end the heroine of this wryly funny coming-of-age story--a girl who lives in a house covered with stuff that is supposed to look like bricks but is just a fake brick pattern--discovers that even the hourly tragedies of junior high school can have silver linings, just as a house covered with Insul-Brick can protect a real home. This first novel shines--fun, engrossing, bittersweet, and wonderfully unpredictable.

224 pages, Paperback

First published October 28, 1999

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About the author

Lynne Rae Perkins

24 books157 followers
Lynne Rae Perkins is the author of several novels, including her most recent Newbery Award winning book, Criss Cross. She enjoys working in her studio, being with friends, watching her kids grow, and watching her husband, Bill, chase their dog around town.

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5 stars
186 (23%)
4 stars
263 (33%)
3 stars
255 (32%)
2 stars
69 (8%)
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13 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 126 reviews
Profile Image for mitchell dwyer.
129 reviews4 followers
December 31, 2011
My Christmas list this year could have been broken into three categories: my family, the friends I see most often, and the friends I just about never see but think about every day. That last group is made up mostly of former colleagues, teachers who started at about the same time I started, people around the same age, friends with whom I share most of the greatest memories of my adult life.

There were five of us in that main group. Among us, I am the only one who is neither married nor engaged. It happens. Someone was going to be the last one standing. And while I won't pretend that it's not a weird feeling to be the only one continuing our Christmas-night tradition of seeing a late movie and then getting dinner at Likelike Drive-In, I will say that the weird feeling is accompanied by the wisdom of forty-plus years. These friends remain on my Christmas list because even while I'm no longer the important part of their lives I might once have been, they remain that important to me. Friends come and friends go, finding their way into our existences in big and little ways, often wandering away similarly.

Lynne Rae Perkins's All Alone in the Universe is an exploration of the dynamics of friendship at the eighth- and ninth-grade levels. One day, Debbie has a best friend. The next day, there is a third friend. It's not long before Debbie walks to school by herself and sits on the other side of the classroom. She's confused, she's lonely, and she is angry. There are grownups around her who recognize her situation, who graciously offer sympathy and comfort without condescending, understanding that she will discover for herself what she will discover.

It's a simple story, told linearly in only 150 short pages, but it is told with admirable sensitivity and a silly flair for the non-sequitur that's maybe not so non-sequitur as it appears. Perkins gives Debbie a voice that's impossible not to sympathize with, her language sliding gracefully between tiny and sad to wide-open and thoughtful. She allows Debbie's narration to wander where it will, drawing seemingly impossible but completely believable connections between stream-of-consciousness digressions and her own sad life. Perkins writes the silliest metaphors and then draws actual illustrations of them:

On the morning of the first day Marie Prbyczka came to our school, the dawn's early light slipped softly into the bedroom where my sister, Chrisanne, and I lay sleeping. We floated through our sleep peacefully, like two pearls sinking through Prell, until the alarm clock ripped the quiet into two pieces, and the first piece fluttered out of sight forever. I pried one eye open so I could watch Chrisanne as she flung herself headfirst out over the foot of her bed and, tethered there by two fingertips, reached out with the fingertips of her other hand to plug in her electric curlers. Then she flopped back in a 180-degree arc onto her pillow and fell into solid, heavy sleep for ten more minutes. It was amazing and impressive. Especially since Chrisanne isn't very flexible. On most days she can hardly do a forward roll. It reminded me of dolphins leaping completely out of the water and flipping over in the air. You watch them and wonder, How is that even possible?

The paragraph is accompanied by a pen-and-ink sketch of two pearls sinking to the bottom of a bottle of shampoo.

This wonderful, silly, fun narrative characterizes all of Perkins's young-adult novels so far. It's very skillful writing and it drives me insane that she's writing it and I'm not. It may not be as good as her other work, but if you loved Criss Cross or As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth, you're going to enjoy the heck out of this quick read.
39 reviews4 followers
October 7, 2007
I usually prefer plot driven books but this story was all about character. I fell for this character's voice and I genuinely cared about what happened to her. I think many people have experienced growing apart from someone. The reader follows Debbie along as her friendship with her best friend (Maureen) becomes broken. This book, like the cover art, is very magical and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who feels "all alone in the universe." Perhaps this is why the book is so good--just about everyone can relate to the character's experience. In the end, the book's message is that family and friendships (the true ones) stand the test of time. At the end because what once was lost has now been found and Debbie declares, "I have friends again. I have friends." A wonderful book with messages of hope for every reader young and old! Also, I was impressed with this writer's style. I found myself pulled in by the way the character compares things and views her world through interesting similes.
Profile Image for Joanna.
85 reviews14 followers
February 11, 2008
While this wasn't as lovely as Criss Cross (her 2nd book), I can safely say that Lynne Rae Perkins is definitely one of my literary crushes. Here's a fabulous little sample from All Alone in the Universe:

As I was changing into my jeans, I thought about Marie for a minute. She was fourteen, but she looked older. Like thirty. She was the kind of girl the principal keeps changing the dress code for, but it won't make any difference unless he makes a rule that says, "No one may be Marie Prbyczka." I guess he could try, "You must open your eyes the whole way, walk like a nun, and look enthusistic," but it would be hard to enforce.
Profile Image for Reyna Gentin.
Author 4 books81 followers
March 18, 2018
I read this book because I am in the midst of writing a middle grade novel and I am trying to learn more about the genre. I enjoyed the story -- a quiet tale of a girl who drifts apart from her best friend for no really obvious reason, and then has to build new friendships in her wake. I find it hard to judge what age reader this book is trying to reach -- in some ways, it feels quite young, as no even marginally adult topics are broached except for a family next door which is down on its luck and where the children are mostly fending for themselves. In other ways, the vocabulary at times seems above a 10 year old's reach, and some comments -- a divorced woman who befriends the protagonist notes that she "got the house" in exchange for losing the husband, seem a bit more sophisticated. Overall a lovely book.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
Author 20 books77 followers
May 1, 2012
People change, friends grow apart. Especially during those tumultuous hormonal years when some kids develop a little faster than others. The protag finds herself the victim of just such a scenario. The rug is pulled out from under her and a friendship she thought she could always count on. It's a lost summer of loneliness, introspection, and boredom as she tries to figure out who she is without this relationship in her life. Its a good read for middle grade teens going through the angst of growing pains.
Profile Image for Carol.
392 reviews4 followers
January 15, 2013
This book was written before Criss Cross and introduces the main character of both books, Debbie. These books are set in the late 1960s. All Alone in the Universe addresses changing friendships of teenage girls. Very well written and the details of that decade are amazing....I forgot about the pearl floating in the Prell bottle! How did she remember that?
Profile Image for Bridget Hanks.
317 reviews1 follower
November 20, 2022
Not as magical as Criss Cross, but still a beautiful little book. I feel like it could have helped me through a breakup if I’d read it at the right time. So nice to spend more time with Perkins’ unique prose.
Profile Image for Patty.
2,300 reviews100 followers
July 22, 2017
“My dance on the pedestal was my friendship with Maureen. I wasn't sure how I had lost my balance and fallen off. Or whether I was pushed. Everyone around me was trying to get me to dance again. The thing was, I hadn't quite given up on getting back up there. I still believed it was the only place where I could be happy.”

Friendship is such an odd thing. We think we know our friends and we think they like us enough to stay friends. However, we have all lost friends for reasons that we don’t fully understand.

Debbie has lost her best friend. She can’t imagine her life without Maureen and that is perfectly understandable. Maureen has been Debbie’s friend since third grade – for a girl in junior high that is a lifetime.

Perkins has done a good job of showing her readers how losing a friend feels. For me this took me back in my life, Perkins gave me an opportunity to reminisce. For her intended readers, I hope Perkins shows them that all is not lost when a friend disappears. Junior high or middle school is such a tough time. Self-confidence isn’t high and so losing a friend could be devastating.

I wish I could remember what inspired me to pick up this book. It was a short read, but very powerful. Perkins knows her audience and writes well. If you are interested in books about friendship and are willing to read a book written for children, this might be the novel for you.
Profile Image for Shay.
310 reviews38 followers
January 6, 2016
When I was a preteen, I had a whole shelf full of Animorphs. Besides that, there was the entire set of Narnia, Witch of BB Pond, and at the very end -- Criss Cross.

Criss Cross, also by Lynne Rae Perkins, is one of my favorite books ever. There was a lot of controversy over whether it deserved a Newberry Award, but I loved it. The book radiates summer, and kindness. The chapters are all so different -- but equally calming. Criss Cross helped me survive those summers I felt friendless.

All Alone in the Universe is quite a bit shorter. The chapters don't diverge much from the story-line. This is the first in the series, back before Debbie meets Hector and Lenny and etcetera. Although I was introduced to a younger Debbie, I identified with her a lot.

Everyone has felt like a third wheel.

Everyone has slowly parted from a friend.

I did not like it as much as Criss Cross, but I did like it a lot, and suggest that everyone read it. The way Perkins shows the mind working isn't quite "stream of consciousness" but it feels very realistic and beautiful. The overall message, as well, is quite stunning.
Profile Image for SamZ.
816 reviews
July 22, 2014
Debbie and Maureen are best friends. But then, one summer, things change and Maureen finds other friends; other interests. Debbie has to find new things to do and struggles with feeling alone and left behind.
Not much happens in this book, but it was still really sweet. Pretty much any middle school kid could relate to Debbie's feelings of isolation. I'm pretty sure we all felt like we were all alone when we were in middle school or high school (or both). The things I loved about this story were the little kindnesses that others did for Debbie: the neighbors that shared blueberries and let her vent and cry; the teacher that bought her some chips and helped her see that it was time to move on; the families that gathered for Christmas Eve and the stories they told about caring for others.
This was a sweet, short little story about struggling to find yourself, even in the midst of change. I would have liked to see more happen, especially with Marie and her siblings, but overall it was a good read for the middle school set.
Profile Image for Maddy.
41 reviews
December 30, 2017
I reread this book last month for the first time since 5th grade (I think) and it was lovely! I remembered it as a kind of melancholy but ultimately reassuring book and I still agree with that. You're following a girl named Debbie who falls out of touch with her best friend and that's basically the only overarching plot. The entire book is very slice-of-life, with characters and events that aren't related directly to the plot, but help create a realistic view of Debbie's town and family and life. Although there are sad moments, it's never too dark or melodramatic. Perkins treats both her characters and readers gently and helps them through the sad parts by interspersing them with realistic tidbits of daily life. Debbie is likable and her feelings of betrayal and loneliness are relatable. Plus there are cute illustrations every few pages that Debbie is supposed to have drawn herself! It's just a really cute, sweet book that feels like a warm hug and only takes a few days to read. I'd recommend it to anyone.
October 31, 2012
A lovely short story about friendship. Debbie a young girl is facing a new and challenging situation when her best fried leaves her, becomes best friend with another girl and she is left "all alone in the universe". Through the people she meets, and the brave actions she takes she makes new friends, and learns that there is no such thing as being alone in the universe, and that having one best friend isn't always better than having lots of different friends. I really enjoyed this book because of it's set-up (each chapter was a month of the year), how the author used different vocabulary, and similes to vividly express Debbie's feelings to the audience. I also liked how the author incorporated the title of the book in the story itself. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read something short, and likes non-fiction and friendship stories.
Profile Image for Cathy.
993 reviews
March 22, 2014
"Before last summer Maureen and I were best friends....At least I think we were. I don't know what happened exactly. As some people who get hit by trucks sometimes say, 'I didn't see anything coming.'" When her best friend since the third grade starts acting as though Debbie doesn't exist, Debbie finds out the hard way that life can be a lonesome place. But in the end the heroine of this wryly funny coming-of-age story--a girl who lives in a house covered with stuff that is supposed to look like bricks but is just a fake brick pattern--discovers that even the hourly tragedies of junior high school can have silver linings, just as a house covered with Insul-Brick can protect a real home.

This first novel shines--fun, engrossing, bittersweet, and wonderfully unpredictable. Very sweet and thoughtful book.
Profile Image for Claire.
1,355 reviews41 followers
January 2, 2009
A story with some of the characters that appear in Cris Cross, All Alone in the Universe tells of Debbie, navigating a lonely year in Junior High. The reader can clearly see what is happening as Debbie flails her way through a year adjusting to the loss of a longtime friend. the story is quite wonderful as Debbie finds her footing.
Profile Image for Christinalovesreading.
263 reviews1 follower
December 13, 2017
Sweet, funny, character-rich story about navigating friendships in the early adolescent years. It was a light in my dark reading month!
Profile Image for Rachel Anderson.
162 reviews8 followers
November 12, 2018
This is quite a book. It's a heart-squeezing portrayal of a girl losing her friend, dealing with the emotional fallout, and figuring out what her life can look like without the person she lost. It especially stands out because the main character having a boyfriend/liking boys doesn't figure largely in it, if at all, and as fond as I am of children's fantasy, there is nothing of the supernatural about it. It's just real life. The topic comes up so often in advice columns or parent-child conversations that it may seem mundane, but this author tells it so beautifully.

It never shoves its point down your throat with verbosity or endless repeating (one reason I often prefer kids' books to those for adults). Perkins simply tells her narrative and describes Debbie's feelings in simple but descriptive language, leaving readers to decide for themselves how much of a role Maureen, Debbie, and Maureen's new friend each played in the older friendship's splitting up. It broke my heart when it was clear that Maureen cared about Debbie and couldn't understand why she was pulling away, while Debbie herself operated on the assumption that Maureen's finding a new friend meant she wasn't invested in the two of them anymore. That this aspect of it was difficult to read makes me not want to reread it - not through any fault of the book's, just that I personally don't want to re-immerse myself in this painful subject. While I'm glad to see such an honest portrayal of what people - especially children - go through, and that Perkins didn't provide neat tie-ups to make us feel better, it appears to me that they had had such a sweet friendship. I like to think about them reuniting when they've matured a bit.

As a side note, I liked that Perkins wove illustrations into her descriptions: when Debbie zeroed in a detail as people tend to do, for instance, the shape of her teacher's concerned-looking mouth when Debbie is asked to stay after class, there's often an illustration to emphasize it. It's a creative way to mirror a common behavior and help the reader feel "inside" the story.

I would recommend it for anyone who has gone through or is currently experiencing something like this, especially thoughtful adolescents (maybe even slightly younger) who can appreciate its character-driven story. In the midst of something like this it helps to hear that life doesn't end when the main source of your happiness is removed, that you can find new things and people to fulfill you and eventually there will be something that makes you feel joy again. I discovered there's a medal-winning sequel to this called Criss Cross, and I'm looking forward to reading it!
Profile Image for Challice.
552 reviews63 followers
September 7, 2020
Ok... well, outside of the illustrations, I could have skipped this book and been ok with it.

"Summer ripened like a piece of fruit. But it was a piece of fruit with an unseen bruise, and it was ripening and spoiling at the same time. The bruise's name was Glenna."

There was nothing spectacular about this book. It was just there. Our main character is angry upset about not being able to have her best friend all to herself anymore. The book takes us back to the beginning of their friendship and how she got to this point in her life where she is "alone" and depressed and upset by the fact she has to share her friend.

"Three is a louse number in a lot of ways. One of those ways is that carnivals always have rides with seats that hold two people, so one person has to act as if she doesn't mind waiting by the fence or riding in a seat by herself or with some other leftover... three is not a happy number. I know that in geometry the triangle is supposed to be an extremely stable shape, as in the pyramids, but in real life triangles are almost never equilateral. There are always two corners that are closer together, while the third is off a little ways but itself."

Another part of the story is the family next door that seems to be one of those off families. Mom and Dad fight, the highschooler smokes and has a string of boyfriends at her disposal. Our main character Debbie takes an interest in the family and watches their life and tells a bit about their story, how there is beer or coke in the fridge and not much else. How the odd family tries to make friends. It was almost a stilted part of the story.

"I looked, too, and then I watched Alice looking. I think that Alice will someday solve problems that have baffled humankind for centuries."

For a middle grade book, and I would put the age between 8 and 12?, there is language in here and there is just a lot of topics that I as a mother would like to have in regards to this book. Again, illustrations were really cute in here and done by the author, but it wasn't a must read. Of all the books in the world, this would be lower on my list to hand to my child when they are hungry for something to read.
Profile Image for Dolly.
Author 1 book644 followers
March 3, 2023
This is an engaging coming-of-age tale framed in the late 1960s. It's a timeless tale about friendships and growing up.

interesting quotes:

"Personally I always have more fun when nobody's telling me I'm supposed to." (p. 37)

"So the only way I can explain what happened next, which is that we both burst out laughing, is that sometimes laughing and crying are almost the same thing. They're not all that far apart sometimes." (p. 65)

"The food has a magical effect of making us feel we must be the most fortunate human beings living on the earth, because what it really is, is love, disguised as food. It holds all the love we didn't find words for this year. Or maybe food is just a better way to express it." (p.133)

...maybe family boundaries are made-up lines, like state borders. And that we all need to take care of one another, somehow." (p. 139)
4 reviews7 followers
May 25, 2021
All Alone in the Universe was a decent book. It was never really exciting and it never really made you wonder what would happen next.The ending was not the best it had a very random ending. I also did not like how the book would drag on forever and ever about the most random things not even about her and Maureen's friendship it would be about family dinners and other things.I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a quick and easy book where nothing really eventful happens.
Profile Image for The Nutmeg.
217 reviews20 followers
January 22, 2021
A candid coming-of-age story set largely in the summer of 1969 and full of the quirkiest, most delightful similes! I am Quite Pleased with this book. It gives me Summer of the Swans vibes, but is far funnier.

I knocked off a star simply because some of the content seemed a little much for middle grade (I'm assuming this is middle grade?), but overall it was dear and the themes were good.
3 reviews
May 25, 2021
I think All Alone in the Universe was an okay book. I think it was just okay because there wasn't anything special to the book it didn't have an interesting ending and I feel that the book was rushed. The beginning of the book started out good but it just got boring as I kept reading on. That is what I think about All Alone in the Universe.
Profile Image for Blondie286.
14 reviews
January 14, 2022
I read this book in middle school, enjoyed it, and decided to read it again recently. It’s honestly amazing how it’s a seemingly simple story, but it’s so interesting, with details and descriptions that will keep you hooked. It can be relatable, funny, and even heartbreaking at times. Please check this one out!
Profile Image for Susan Reyna.
645 reviews
September 12, 2018
A wonderful story about the growing pains and friendship issues adolescents tend to suffer, but told in such a lyrical way, with a deeper message reminding us we all are responsible for spreading kindness to those less fortunate than ourselves.
Profile Image for Lynn  A. Davidson.
5,820 reviews24 followers
October 16, 2018
An MG novel - a story that so many of us can relate to. Debbie feels replaced in her best friend's life by another girl, and in her loneliness she begins noticing more about other people. A very nice story.
August 21, 2020
It was a very relatable book very interesting.I like the part where she trusted the gardener enough to tell him what was going on with her and how she was feeling but I didn't like the that she didn't fight for her friend.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Samhita Argula.
108 reviews33 followers
May 26, 2018
Amazing book! Honest, thought provoking, feel good book.
Good read when you're unhappy or depressed.
Profile Image for Ellen Airgood.
Author 6 books165 followers
March 3, 2019
I love this book. Such beautiful, immediate writing. So real. Funny and wry.
66 reviews8 followers
March 9, 2019
Dear Lynne Rae Perkins:

Thank you for writing my story.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 126 reviews

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