Book Review: Allegedly

By: Tiffany D. Jackson
Published by: Katherine Tegen Books
Release date: January 24, 2017
Genre: YA Contemporary
400 pages
Source: Galley kindly provided by publisher

I was hoping that Allegedly would treat me to a brain break from the holiday music and movies and shopping, and it sure did the trick. This is a story about a girl who has little joy, hope, or celebration in her life. It's a story of a girl who, as a child, was convicted of killing a three-month-old baby. 
The book's main character, Mary, is presently 16 years old, living in a group home for girls on house arrest. Most of the girls are dangerous, and the adults running the place seem to only care to protect their charges enough to make sure they can keep their jobs. Mary spends hours each week at a nursing home, working as a candy striper to fulfill her obligation to do community service. It's while doing this work that she meets Ted, falls in love, and becomes pregnant. The expected arrival of her child changes everything for her; now it's imperative that she do everything she can to get her conviction overturned so she can keep and provide for her baby.

The author creates some vivid, clearly-crafted characters who become even more powerful when described through Mary's narration. Mary's mother is as easy to hate as her SAT tutor is easy to love. Mary's storytelling, especially when she is revisiting the past, is equally powerful. The story's construction kept me turning the pages, looking for the next clue about Mary's fate.

Though I loved the majority of the book, the conclusion fell a bit short for me. There were story elements that were completely dropped, and I craved resolution. There was a change of direction that could have worked much better than it did if the big reveal was less subtle.

Overall, however, I thought this was a well-told story with a smart main character whose voice was compelling. As much as we like to read about people like ourselves, it is also good to view the world from a different perspective. Mary's perspective is absolutely worth your time to read.

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 five 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.