Please note that I was given an advance copy of the book from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.
Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Full disclosure: Everyone in my family, myself included, is a huge fan of crime dramas and those twisty crime “documentaries” that run on late night cable networks like 48 Hours. We love to try and guess the turns in the cases and guessing who did whatever crime is being discussed. I’ve never really seen those kinds of stories represented in YA, so I was thrilled to discover Tiffany D. Jackson’s gripping debut Allegedly.
Jackson’s novel tells the story of Mary, a sixteen-year-old black girl who was accused and prosecuted for killing a three-month-old white baby when she was nine-years-old. Living in an abusive group home for troubled teen girls and having recently discovered she is pregnant, she decides to take a stand and try to reopen her case for a second chance.
The best part about this book is the crucial diversity of narrative it brings to contemporary YA fiction. There are not enough YA books that include both representation of urban slang and complex, richly written WOC protagonists who jump off the page. This is one of them. Whether you like or hate Mary as a character, it’s almost impossible to deny that this book and its characters are excellently written. Mary is simultaneously the bright girl she was as a child and the resourceful prisoner she has learned to be. She doubts herself after years of adults calling her a monster, but still tries to find a way to take the SATs so she can go to college. Her narration was tender, perseverant and vulnerable.
The book also takes the reader to communities of black women and the importance of family and friendship, from churches to group homes. The relationship between Mary and her Momma was one of the most twisted relationships I have ever seen in YA. This book is a manifesto for the desperate acts that mothers will do for their children and vice versa. For the sake of not spoiling anything, you’re going to have to read this book to find out more for yourself.
The characters in this book are all nuanced and complex, from the girls in Mary’s group home to her attorney Ms. Cora to her child’s father Ted. This book doesn’t promise likeability, but it delivers on high emotions and high stakes dialog and relationships. It’s a book that will keep you on your toes from start to finish. I pride myself in picking out twists and even I didn’t see some of the biggest twists in this book coming.
My only problems with this book were pacing and its untied ending. The beginning of this book dragged for me and there were a few points where I really had to push myself through the static plot. However, the last bit of the novel started to move a little too quickly and by the end, I wasn’t satisfied that the whole story had been told. I wanted more and felt like Mary’s arc hadn’t been completely finished. It felt like a chapter or two was left off the end, or at the very least an epilogue showing a glimpse of the future.
Besides these snags, Allegedly is a worthwhile read if you are looking for dark, gritty, diverse contemporary YA fiction. It’s a book you won’t want to miss, because it’s one I’m sure people are going to be talking about for a while. And I can’t wait to see what Jackson, who has already shown herself to be a tactile writer and thorough researcher, has to offer in her next novel and the one after that and the one after that.