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 church-going black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.
Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.
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 must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?
In this gritty and haunting debut, Tiffany D. Jackson explores the grey areas in our understanding of justice, family, and truth, and acknowledges the light and darkness alive in all of us.
Author: Tiffany D. Jackson
Published: January 2017
Genre: YA Contemporary/Thriller
Part of me was really wondering if I should even bother with this review. In fact I don’t even know if I should call it a review since technically I didn’t finish this book. This post will be more akin to a discussion, but for simplicity sake I’m just going to label it as a review. I was incredibly excited for Allegedly, because YA thriller’s like this are actually fairly rare. Dealing with themes like abuse, the prison system, crimes committed by children (a topic rarely discussed actually), as well as being particularly brutal in their depiction of said themes.
Allegedly was framed to be an amazing debut by a woman with something incredibly important to say.
Unfortunately Allegedly disappointed me fairly early on with this section from page 8.
Ms. Stein limps into the kitchen, her bowlegs fat and swollen. You’d think someone would change their diet after they reach over two hundred pounds. But not Ms. Stien. She still eats an entire box of Entenmann’s crumb topped donuts a day.
Okay well… that’s not fun. Especially since this comes from Mary’s POV. The character I’m supposed to sympathize with. And unfortunately it get worse later.
“My mom… she kicked me out when she caught me with my first girlfriend. Pretty little light skin thing with curly hair…”
She glances at me and I stare at the floor. Kelly rolls her eyes and mouths. “Ew.”
China is the manliest person in the house. She wears nothing but boy clothes, even boxers which seems like overkill. Momma would be disgusted at the “nasty lesbian” I’m living with. she hates anything that is not in the Bible, which seems like everything.
“How long you been a rug muncher for?”
This last part is said by an unnamed character, I’m assuming it’s one of the other girls and not Mary herself. Regardless this paragraph here honestly disgusted me. Because not only are we playing into the ‘manly/butch lesbian’ stereotype, but Mary is complicit in this sort of homophobic behavior. And I can get that Mary is framed as this unlikable protagonist of sorts, but well… that means I’m not going to like her, and if there are no characters for me to latch onto and root for, then I’ve really got nothing because a story without decent characters just falls flat.
And it’s honestly heartbreaking and tiring at the same time because this section essentially broke this book for me. I realize that these are supposed to be the ‘bad kids’. Kids who got into trouble, committed crimes, kids who aren’t supposed to know any better. And Mary’s 15 at the time so she’s still learning about a lot of things, and some stuff she can’t really know about yet, but if this is how she’s going to be presented then I really don’t want to bother reading the next 300 pages from her point of view. The problems here just kept piling up until this book just made me not want to read it anymore.
And speaking of Mary being 15, one story element involved Mary being impregnated by her 18 year old boyfriend. So he’s a rapist. Not only that, but the crime that landed him in trouble happened when he was 13 and he held down a girls hands while his friends tried to rape her.
And okay, it’s a book about assault and criminalizing children and the blatant issues with the prison system but I’m not sure how or why I’m expected to sympathize with a rapist, especially when it becomes clear that Mary’s boyfriend has a lot of anger issues that frankly fall into the realm of being abusive. i.e. when Mary is buying prenatal vitamins and a store clerk wonders if she needs help, said boyfriend then bursts in incredibly angry, telling the clerk to stay away from Mary.
I don’t have any more that I myself read and can speak to because that’s when I stopped reading. I was told by a friend that the homophobia only gets worse. There are also scenes at some point (again I left this book unfinished, so I can thank my friend for these screenshots) where Mary is faced with meeting and interacting with Indian people.
Allegedly is not a book for everyone. Frankly I would’ve said that I had loved this book, because what I did like was how brutally honest it was being regarding things like the court and prison system, as well as abuse in a household. Jackson doesn’t hold back with her writing, and isn’t afraid to depict gross details or language. I’d like to say that I’ll give a chance to whatever she tries next but unless somethings change she’s going to be an author I have to avoid.
Unfortunately Allegedly isn’t for everyone in the sense that you especially shouldn’t read it if you’re fat, queer, Indian, or have been a victim of sexual assault because it can be so triggering. I hate that so much kept me from being able to love this novel, to want to shove it into the hands of fellow readers, but I can’t do that knowing that someone could be hurt by things Mary or other characters do or say in the text.