Book: Allegedly by Tiffany D Jackson
Published January 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books|400 pages
Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library
Genre: YA Contemporary
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? 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?
I’m not sure what to think about Allegedly. Part of me is angry, for how Mary was treated, and everything she had to go through. But part of me is also wondering what really happened.
I felt angry that people would actually threaten a 9 year-old. I felt so angry (and now that I think about it, sad) that people actually wanted the such strong punishment for a 9 year-old. She was 9. And I do wonder, what if it had been a white 9 year-old who was accused of murdering an infant. Would it have been a completely different outcome? Probably, and that makes me even more angry.
Not only that, but the people running the group home she lived in were horrible. She wasn’t in a good situation, even after she left prison. She was stuck, and as much as she wanted to try to get herself out, she had to jump through so many different hoops. She was surrounded by people who told her that employers and colleges wouldn’t want her because she’s a murderer. It makes you wonder how people are supposed to better themselves if that’s what our society really thinks of them, and won’t give them a chance to move on. Now that I’m thinking about it, it doesn’t seem like there’s an easy answer, and one that I probably can’t answer. Partly because I don’t know enough about it, but also, this is a book review, not a post on answering life’s questions.
This book definitely has its twists and turns, but by the end of the book, I was wondering if Mary really did it or not. She is a pretty sympathetic character, but I also felt like, by the end of the book, I wasn’t sure what to believe. She did seem like an unreliable narrator by the end of the book, and while I was convinced that she didn’t do it, I wasn’t too sure by the end of the book. You’re questioning everything, though I’m not sure about the ending.
I’m not sure if Mary’s a better liar than everyone thought or if she really didn’t do it, but deciding to be honest about what really happened, and then changing her mind….I’m not sure how I feel about that. Maybe you’re supposed to be so angry, and then question everything. Maybe things aren’t what they seem, and that in some cases, we’ll never know for sure what happened. That not everyone is reliable.
It didn’t take away from the dark grittiness we see in the book. It didn’t take away what the justice system is like, and there’s a lot I don’t know, like what happens to the children who are born to a mother in prison. We see other issues, like mental health, how our environment affects us, and how the media sees certain cases.
Speaking of the media, throughout the book, we see excerpts from interview transcripts and from books about both Mary and her trial. They really showed how people see Mary, and they are an insight into what people think of her trial.
While Jackson tackles a lot of different topics, she also did it well. Everything felt equally important, and I wasn’t overwhelmed by everything we see. It came together to paint a picture of a girl who needs a lot of help, but isn’t necessarily getting it.
4 stars. I don’t know that you can necessarily like a book like Allegedly, and I wasn’t sure about the ending, which is why it gets a rating of 4 stars. But Jackson has set a very high standard for her future books, and I hope they’re as good as this one.