Allegedly, by Tiffany. D. Jackson, is a manic mind-fuck and I love it. This mind-churning and disturbing novel is a gut punch that leaves the reader breathless and unsettled.
Allegedly is told from Mary’s perspective. When we meet her, Mary is a 15-year-old girl living in a group home, serving the sentence given after she killed a baby.
Mary is an unreliable narrator, and her perspective leads the reader on a tense journey that’s compulsive and nerve-wracking–a ride that you might not want to be on, but you can’t get off, because your craving for the truth keeps you turning the pages.
Tiffany D. Jackson is a talented writer who showcases a twisted creativity as well as a smart mind with Allegedly. Her characterization of the protagonist and antagonists is vivid and layered, twisted and human, and I love how complicated she makes them. Every character in this book is fucked up; they are layers of jagged pieces that make it difficult to piece them together, but it’s oh so fun to try. Mary is an enigma. Her mother is also confusing and unstable. They both know the truth, but it’s unclear who is actually telling the truth, and the anxiety…oh, the anxiety is delicious as you read.
Also, along with Mary and her Momma is a group of girls interrupted, girls who would sooner kill you than braid your hair, who live in a house with Mary under the supervision of a cruel and neglectful social worker. Mary lives under constant threat of violence, and the physical and emotional abuse that she endured for years in a corrections facility, compounded by the terror-filled minefield she maneuvers in the group home, leads her to seek comfort in the arms of 18-year-old Ted. Mary ends up pregnant, and she must fight to keep her baby.
The characters drive this book and the mystery is enhanced by their unstable personalities. It would be easy to label each as disturbed and write them off as immoral, unsympathetic, and irredeemable, but Jackson does well to make sure that it’s clear that the environment is a factor as well as nature. Although, there are plenty of moments when you’ll think, “These girls are fucking crazy!”
I like that Jackson doesn’t label any of the characters. She does use excerpts from psychiatric professionals and social workers to give some background on Mary, but she realistically shows the contradictory conclusions and diagnoses that are prevalent in psychiatry, especially pertaining to a girl like Mary who is tossed around the system.
Listen, this book will leave you conflicted. I’ve been thinking about it for the last week, since I read it, and I still vacillate over the moral quagmire that this novel presents. It’s fitting that I’m writing this review on Mother’s Day, since the interplay between Mary and her mother creates the most conflict and angst, and has left me agitated. This book elicits a multitude of emotions, ranging from sympathy to disgust, sadness to rage, fear and hope. They all linger in the end as you’re left a bit rootless. You won’t find safety in this book.
I’m struggling with whether to give this 4 or 5 stars, since the last chapter is open-ended. There’s the potential to finish feeling dissatisfied, but the flip side is that the author leaves it all up tho the reader, which can be fun. The more I think on Allegedly, the more I love it. I love it as it is, but I must say that it would be a fantastic, disturbing series, unlike other YA series filling the market.
I’m definitely re-reading this one. I recommend.
Audiobook notes: This novel is narrated by Bahni Turpin, who has been voicing a ton of the hot novels lately, including The Hate U Give, The Sun is Also a Star, The Underground Railroad, and a bunch more. I knew that it would be great, when I saw that she was the narrator, since she does such a fantastic job with emotionally charged reads (she made me cry during THUG). I particularly love her voice for Mary since the character is equal parts genius adult and irrational child, so it’s a thrill to experience the sinister world of Allegedly through Mary’s grey perspective as well as Bahni’s sweet voice. The narration is gripping, so audiobook fans should definitely check it out.Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
Genres: Mystery, Young Adult
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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?