Book review by
Mary Cosola, Common Sense Media
Allegedly Book Poster Image
Gritty, powerful thriller about girl jailed in baby killing.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 7 reviews

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The book gives insight into how the justice system works (or doesn't work) for youth offenders, including trials, incarceration, and post-jail group homes. Book details how young offenders get trapped once convicted: They can't get jobs or a good education and often have no place to go once they turn 18. Some writing referenced, including Push, The Great Gatsby, and the works of Maya Angelou. PTSD from traumatic events figures into the plot. Mary studies for the SAT, and vocabulary words are peppered throughout the book.

Positive Messages

Learn to advocate for yourself and speak up; trust your gut. No matter how horrible your life has been, find a reason and a way to press on and work for a stable future.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mary is a loyal person, often to her detriment. Ted, though he makes some bad life choices, cares for Mary and does what he can to help her and take care of her. Claire doesn't judge Mary and gives her advice and assistance. Cora is an excellent lawyer with high morals. She believes in Mary and works hard for her.


Violence and brutality are major themes in the book. Many of the characters live in and have been raised in violent circumstances. They fear violence every day of their lives. The book looks at the cycle of violence and how hard it is to break. The girls in the group are vicious and cruel. They attack one another, sometimes with intent to kill. One girl throws boiling oil and water into another's face. The adults who run the home hit the girls. A cat is found killed and mutilated. Lots of verbal abuse. One character relates memories of her mother's abuse and of her mother's boyfriend repeatedly trying to molest her. Characters have memories and scars of childhood abuse. Ted is sometimes rough with Mary, and she accepts it as normal; he catches himself before it goes too far and is trying to be a better person. Memories unfold of a baby's death, which get more detailed as the story progresses. Lots of name-calling and queer- and fat-shaming.


Characters talk crudely about sex. Mary and Ted have a sexual relationship that isn't described graphically, though the feelings of enjoying sex and attraction are detailed. A character hears people having sex in the next room on more than one occasion.


The book is written the way teens talk, especially tough kids, so profanity is frequent: "f--k" and variations, "s--t" and variations, "damn," "ass," "bitch," "goddamn," "piss," "c--t," "tits," "p---y," "butt," "dyke," "hell," and "nigga."


Most products mentioned for scene or character setting, including Harry Potter books, Range Rover, BMW, Vaseline, The Nanny, Kraft, Law & Order: SVU, Rice Krispie Treats, IHOP, Macy's, MAC makeup, Stove Top Stuffing, Kool-Aid, Lifetime network, New York Times, Lion King.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Mrs. Richardson smokes and drinks, showing how she's fallen apart after her baby dies. Mary's mother's boyfriend drinks, which is related in flashback. Mary smells and sees pot smoke in a room, but no one is shown smoking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know Allegedly is a thriller about a teen girl, Mary, who was convicted at age 9 of killing a baby and has spent the past seven years in jail. The novel follows her post-jail life in the group home where she must live until she is 18. Mary tries hard to move beyond her circumstances and get ready for life after jail while also figuring out the truth behind the crime she allegedly committed. The content is gritty and realistic. It shows the difficulty youth offenders face in trying to get their lives back on track, especially when many of them have traumatic backgrounds. Life in the group home is extremely rough. Mary fears for her life on several occasions. The girls are physically and verbally brutal with one another. The story has a lot of violent scenes, name-calling, and fat- and gay-shaming. A cat is found killed and mutilated. Most of the characters are deeply troubled people, but a few are good, kind, and helpful. Sex between the characters is not described graphically but figures into the plot. The teen characters talk crudely about sex and swear constantly, including "f--k," "s--t," and "c--t." The book will spark discussions about the vicious cycle of crime and violence many troubled youths face and how the judicial system often fails them.


User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byjeanne2522 July 31, 2018

Please do not let a child or teen read this.

This book is extremely inappropriate for teens. I wouldn't even read it. My daughter who is a young teen was shocked and handed to me, telling me how bad t... Continue reading
Adult Written byshawn c. July 12, 2017


F**k and S**t and Bitch and Crap and Piss and D**k and N***a and all the bad words. Not too much sex. Not too violent. Not too crude.
Teen, 15 years old Written byjacksoncc6 June 8, 2021

Goes over really serious topics that are important for teens to learn.

I really enjoyed this book which I read for my class. I'm a Freshman in high school. It went over lots of serious topics like teen pregnancy, violence, sys... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byprincess_ccamille May 19, 2021
The title fits well. This book addresses instead of topics such as r*pe,death,and murder. The language can be bad but, it’s one of the best books I’ve read. Al... Continue reading

What's the story?

In Tiffany D. Jackson's thriller ALLEGEDLY, 16-year-old Mary is living in a group home, on probation after serving seven years for allegedly killing an infant. The story is laced with flashbacks and documents from her trial and the sensational media coverage. Her memories are shaky, but as the book progresses we learn enough to doubt her guilt. The group home is a cruel and brutal place: The girls hurl verbal abuse and try to kill each other, and the women running the home are just as bad. Her mother, distant and in denial, visits every few weeks but offers no real support. The bright spot for Mary is her part-time job at a nursing home, where she meets and falls in love with Ted, a relationship that brings its own set of problems into her life.

Is it any good?

While Allegedly is a gritty, gripping page-turner about convicted baby killer Mary Addison, it is about so much more. Readers will see how the juvenile justice system often fails the kids it's supposed to help. Themes of family, abuse, PTSD, teen pregnancy, mental illness, juvenile justice, and the ripple effect of loss are explored. Readers get a realistic insight into the uphill battle juvenile offenders face in trying to get their lives back on track. The book picks up with Mary living in a group home after her stint in jail. The group home is brutal, and the barrage of hatred and setbacks Mary experiences gets exhausting and repetitive at points. It's true to life, but it's hard to read.

The story is told from Mary's point of view, and the colloquial narration and teen dialogue ring true, with rough talk and swearing. Her relationship with her mother is heartbreaking. For all Mary's gone through, her childlike faith in her mother is sweet as well as maddening. The romance between Mary and Ted is tough but believable. It provides a few bright spots in the story. He has his own history and issues, but he's trying to do right by Mary and change his own life while helping her change hers. The tension in the story comes from Mary revisiting her memories of the night baby Alyssa died. She's not sure she can trust her memories, but she's not sure she can trust her mother, either. Nor can she trust a system that was anxious to put a 9-year-old girl behind bars. Documentation from her court case and media coverage is woven into the story and helps heighten the suspense. The twist toward the end throws the book offtrack. The story would have been better served by the introduction of some of the surprises sooner, but for many readers, it might entice them to read the book again to pick up the clues.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the sensational media coverage of Mary's case in Allegedly. Are you fascinated by famous criminal cases? Do you think there's a slant to news coverage to get more viewers or sell more papers? Can we ever know what really happened?

  • Allegedly depicts the struggles of young convicted criminals, especially those who have had rough home lives. Did it open your eyes to the problems such kids face? What do you think can be done for them?

  • Have you ever decided to improve some aspect of your life? What steps did you take to make it happen?

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