Summary in a Nutshell…
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 churchgoing 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?
God damn is this book good. Like, ‘I’m writing this review ten minutes after finishing it’ good. All because I have a lot of thoughts and a lot of feels and a lot of WTF moments I need to get off my chest. For starters, can we just talk about the ideal reader for this story? They’ve gotta love (or love to hate) having their emotions thrown into a blender, as well as never knowing what the hell is 100% factual. But actually I would recommend this stunning debut to any lover of YA fiction out there. It’s moving and so beautifully crafted; unputdownable(???) from the first page.
But real talk, let me just say how hard this book is to read at times. Allegedly is, at its core, probably one of the most depressing stories I’ve ever read. Protagonist Mary’s life alternates between two settings; awful and impossibly more awful. This inherent sympathy net Jackson crafted is genius, and made me so connected to Mary’s journey for the truth. No matter how bad things got, I always believed justice would prevail and give her the life she deserved. But Jackson, in her quest to show the reader just how many punches life can throw a single person, made it clear that may not happen. In the process she uses her platform to address our flawed legal system, and the way race plays into it. Normally I would say so many issues tied into one story is bordering on Ellen Hopkins tragedy porn, but here it works. The writing is very introspective, and a lot of the major action happens off paper. Having so much going on inside Mary’s head kept the story moving, and only furthered my connection to her as my only tie to the story.
Granted, you can never know for sure how much of the truth Mary’s giving you. She’s not exactly unreliable, but so much of what Jackson writes is he said/she said type stuff it’s impossible to say where fact ends and fiction starts. This is probably the aspect of the story that (infuriatingly) makes it so much like an actual court case. There’s no way to ever know what’s going on in a person’s head, or the events in their life that define who they are. People are so much more than a list of character traits, and Jackson recognizes this in Allegedly. Equally impossible is deciding where the line between guilt and innocence is drawn, as the twist ending will prove so well. And speaking of that (without any spoilers), let me just say I really liked it. Which is surprising since I thought it was awful when I first pulled all the pieces together. But after a night of reflection, I think it’s what needed to happen; for better or worse.
This book is my first five star read of 2017, and 100% worth all the hype it received. The closest story I can compare it too would be The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly, but just know Allegedly is so much better. It’s one part book, one part sounding board for a bunch of hard questions with no clear answers. Mary is amazing, the supporting characters are amazing, everything is amazing! I literally have not a single complaint to voice…that is unless you don’t pick up this book immediately. Which you will. Obviously. Because I’m recommending it
What did you guys think of the ending? Love it? Hate it? Any recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments!