A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?
- Author: Tiffany D. Jackson
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Friendship, High School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
- Publication date: January 24, 2017
- Number of pages: 400
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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