A Girl Called Al is easily accessible to younger readers. The novel is presented in short sentences, and the narrator’s voice is refreshingly age-appropriate; the narrator is relatively uncomplicated, trusting, and given to frequent misunderstandings of the adult world. Greene’s decision neither to name the narrator nor to provide first names for adults except for Al’s father-substitutes adds an extra dimension to the work. On one hand, the narrator becomes an “Everyman,” allowing the individual reader to relate more easily to the narrator’s role. The focus of the story remains completely on Al herself, and the reader is shown how an unconventional new friend can take precedence over everything else. The fact that the important male figures—Al’s homeroom teacher, Mr. Richards, the well-meaning beau of her lonely mother—are named illustrates the difference between these real-life men and the nonexistent father whom Al romanticizes. Young readers can identify with the narrator’s reaction to forming a friendship with someone who seems foreign and exciting, and the narrator’s ability to maintain her down-to-earth attitude in the face of such exotic behavior can be viewed as encouraging and grounding. Greene hints that the narrator is aware that Al’s tough exterior is largely a façade; that the narrator accepts her friend despite this knowledge is an important lesson.
Greene’s novel is also noteworthy for the way it deals...
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Constance C. Greene’s major and best-known works are coming-of-age stories that feature a variety of the crises of early adolescence. A Girl Called Al is the first novel about the title character in Greene’s popular series, which also includes I Know You, Al (1975), Al(exandra) the Great (1982), Just Plain Al (1986), and Al’s Blind Date (1989). Greene’s work also features other popular protagonists, such as the title characters of Isabelle the Itch (1973) and The Love Letters of J. Timothy Owen (1986); the latter novel marked Greene’s foray into novels for older adolescents.
Greene has stated that her own children, as well as personal childhood memories, have inspired and informed her books. Her writing has earned her critical acclaim; A Girl Called Al, for example, is an American Library Association Notable Book.