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Tiffany D. Jackson's ALLEGEDLY is not easy to read --- but it’s the kind of story that makes you think, makes you question, makes you feel. It grabs you on page one, and by the end you will be begging to find out what happened on that fateful night.

Mary B. Addison was sent to jail at age nine for killing Alyssa, a three month old baby. Allegedly. Though Mary said nothing during her arrest and trial, only she and her mother were in the room that night. Now, almost 16, she’s out of jail and living in a group home with other juvenile offenders, wearing an ankle monitor to keep track of her every movement.

"[ALLEGEDLY] is written with unreliable and heartbreaking narration, frank and often jarring dialogue, and straightforward prose. It’s thought-provoking and eye-opening."

When Mary realizes she’s pregnant, she knows she will have to fight to keep her baby; that the state will try to take it away from her because of her past alleged crimes. So Mary must do the impossible: clear her name. She knows what really happened that night, and she needs come clean. But coming clean means confronting her mother; her mother who has “days” with moods that make her a different person. But is Mary a different person sometimes, too? Who is telling the truth about what happened to Alyssa?

Mary is a fascinating character, and I enjoyed being inside of her head, no matter how confusing it became. She’s a strong, scared teenager who is constantly fighting for everything in her life. Even when I questioned if she actually did kill Alyssa, I was worried about what would happen to her, how she would survive within the life she has been dealt. She is very sympathetic. She is the runt of the group home and is often picked on and teased. But with these girls, the teasing is violent. I was worried for her safety often. She’s multidimensional, and depicted with a lot of poise and thought.

This novel is written with unreliable and heartbreaking narration, frank and often jarring dialogue, and straightforward prose. It’s thought-provoking and eye-opening. Interwoven throughout the story are news articles and quotes from books that have been written about Mary and her trial. It breaks up the narration and lets the reader see Mary and her crime from an outsider’s point of view.

Though I thought the characters were intricately crafted and the writing captivating, this was not a perfect novel. Some side plots were too prominent, like her group therapy sessions, which made for inconsistent pacing. They drained the momentum, causing the story to drag and forced me to lose interest. ALLEGEDLY is accurately depicted as a mystery/thriller, but the “thrill” would disappear because of filler scenes that took away from the main plot.

Another issue was its foreshadowing, or more accurately, the lack of foreshadowing. Because of this, the ending felt separate from the rest of the novel and I had a hard time believing it. An ending needs be true to the characters and the progression of plot. A mystery is at its best when there’s foreshadowing throughout the novel to make a reader believe the twist. Instead, in ALLEGEDLY, there was a reveal at the end that felt disingenuous to the rest of the story.

Despite the issues I had with it, this is a strong novel and I recommend it for a reader who enjoys gritty, character-driven YA novels. It’s the kind of story that sticks with you for weeks to come; that pops into your head at unexpected times and forces you to think about it again.

Reviewed by Melissa Hurt on January 26, 2017

by Tiffany D. Jackson

  • Publication Date: April 10, 2018
  • Genres: Family, Fiction, Young Adult 14+
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
  • ISBN-10: 0062422650
  • ISBN-13: 9780062422651