Book Review: Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Title: Allegedly
Author: Tiffany D. Jackson
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Date: January 24th, 2017
Pages: 400
Format: ebook
Source: Purchased

 

Synopsis (from Amazon):

Orange Is the New Black meets Walter Dean Myer’s Monster in this gritty, twisty, and haunting debut by Tiffany D. Jackson about a girl convicted of murder seeking the truth while surviving life in a group home.

Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: a white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it?

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary’s fate now lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But does anyone know the real Mary?

Review:

Only few books can shake me. Allegedly is one of them.

After I finished this compelling novel, I needed some time to process everything that was going on in the book, as well as calm myself so I could understand my feelings.

Reading this, you probably think I’m exaggerating.
If I was you, I’d probably think the same.
But I am telling the truth. Sometimes we don’t know how we’re going to react to a certain book, and sometimes our reactions can surprise us.

Going into this story, I knew it would be difficult for me. I was even aware how disturbing it was.
You probably hear about Allegedly, as one of novels written in own voices, one that was praised in “reading diversity” movement (if that’s a movement, I’m not 100% sure), the book that is important to read.

First of all, I agree with the statement how it is important for this book to be read, and for author’s voice to be heard.
This is one hugely important, disturbing book that represents not only people of color, but minority that we don’t get to read often about – teenagers in group home.

Honestly, I am afraid how I’m going to sound when I say this, but I will say it anyway: this novel reminded me how happy my life is. When I reflect and compare it to lives like ones I read about in this novel, to teenagers who yes, committed crimes during their lives, but are still alive and have to live with invisible “Scarlet letter” that follows them every where they go, without support of their families, in poverty and with someone else deciding about everything in their life, I understand how privileged I actually am.
And once again, I used the word I am really not a fan of, but there is no other word to say it better.

The story is told in first person, following Mary’s POV.
Beside Mary’s narration (and I have to state that Mary is one of the best narrators I had a pleasure to read about), there are bunch of newspaper articles, police interviews, excerpts from doctor’s papers and other similar stuff.

Reading Allegedly was thought provoking and emotional experience.
It definitely wasn’t easy.
Some scenes were violent and disturbing, some were harder to understand, some were extremely sad, but what hit me the most was how everyone underestimated Mary all the time.

I rooted for her, even though she never stated if she did it, if she killed the baby. She said she did, allegedly.
But yet, you as a reader don’t believe she would do such a thing. She does not seem like that kind of person.

The writing style is amazing, and I simply can not believe this is a debut novel.

One more thing I’d like to emphasize is the role of the State (here I mean criminal justice system and state foster care).
Mary’s (and other girls’) destiny depended so much on those two, that it feels like the State has it’s own personality.

There is one more thing we need to discuss: the last chapter.
I tried and tried to decide whether I like how this story ended.
At fist I was shocked, but resolved that I liked it.
Now, after some thinking, I wish the story ended differently.
Why?
Because, even though I understand why the writer chose to end the story the way she did, I can’t help but feel that some messages delivered through the story were (partly) erased with that conclusion.

Fun fact: When doing my research, I found out that this book was inspired by true event that happened in 2012, when 10 years old girl was charged with manslaughter of a three month old baby.

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