Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
Published by Katherine Tegen Book on January 24, 2017
Source: My local library.
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.
This review is going to be hard to write. I’m going to start with a small disclaimer: obviously the subject matter in this book is very challenging, as it’s about a girl convicted of killing a baby. I can see how that would upset and steer people away from reading this. There is also a lot of problematic comments in this book that were not necessary to the overall plot nor ever corrected. This review and this review address these comments in really insightful ways. There is a graphic animal death scene in this book as well, which is something I wished I had known going in. There’s also a lot of swearing in this book, which didn’t really bother me but I know it does bother some.
I was actively looking forward to the release of this book. I read a sneak peek on Wattpad awhile ago and the another on Epic Reads the week before it came out. I was hyped. I hadn’t read anything else like it before, the premise was intriguing, and the writing compelling. I didn’t want to stop reading once I started.
And it lived up to the hype! Is it an easy read? No. Is it unputdownable and challenging? Absolutely. This book challenges the reader’s perception at every turn, at every chapter. I love when a book challenges me to think about any preconceived notions I may have and gets me thinking after I’ve read it.
Mary killed Alyssa, a three month old infant left in her and her mother’s care when she was nine years old. Allegedly. During the trial, Mary never confessed to the crime. In fact, she didn’t say anything at all. Now, with her own child to think about, she realizes she needs to start fighting back and fighting for herself if she wants to keep her baby.
From the beginning, it is difficult to believe that Mary killed Alyssa. Compared to the other girls at her group home, she doesn’t seem that evil. In fact, she seems like a good kid. She knows enough to not run her mouth, she does what she’s supposed to do, and she’s smart. But she’s been told for the past six years that she did it, she’s been convicted for the crime, and she’s been rehabilitated for it. When she begins to tell people she didn’t do it, she begins to take her life back.
If you like books with likable characters, I would steer clear of this one. Other than Mary (who I found only kinda likable) there are maybe two likable characters in this book. Mary is also an unreliable narrator, but that didn’t bother me. I loved Cora and everything she was about. I was also fascinated/terrified by the New Girl/Sarah. Her arc was perhaps the most interesting of the minor characters. She could have her own book honestly. I really wasn’t a fan of Ted and his relationship with Mary, especially once it’s revealed what crime Ted was convicted of. He is also very abusive towards Mary and I did not like the arc of their relationship
The ending of this book shook me. I read it and then went back and went through it again just to be sure I had read everything right. It really turned the entire novel on it’s head. I almost want to go back and reread the book to see how the ending affects my perception. Yes, it does leave a lot of loose ends and lots of unanswered questions. But neatly wrapped endings aren’t very believably and when looking at the premise, the reader cannot think it’s going to end happily. I was satisfied with the ending. I wouldn’t mind a sequel, but I don’t feel one is absolutely necessary. Knowing Mary how I do now, I would like to spend more time with her to learn more about her.
I’m torn between classifying this as a Young Adult Contemporary or a thriller. It’s definitely a contemporary in terms of time period and what it tackles. But it absolutely reads like a thriller. I could not put down this book once I got into it. And I tried. I simply had to know what happens next.
Overall, I’d recommend this book if you like darker contemporaries, if you enjoy a thrilling pace, if you want a book that challenges you at every turn. However, after recognizing the potential problematic comments in the writing, I cannot in good faith make a blanket recommendation of this book. It’s not for everyone based on the unnecessary, problematic comments made throughout, not to mention the subject matter. However, I think Jackson is very honest about the court and prison system and her writing pulls no punches in that regard.