Rating: 3.5 / 5
ALLEGEDLY by Tiffany D. Jackson is a book that has been on my radar for a while. I finally bumped it up on my TBR in June for the Reading Women Month bingo prompt to read YA by a woman of color.
ALLEGEDLY tells the story of Mary B. Addison, a 16 year old girl who is in a group home and on probation because when she was a young girl she killed a baby. Allegedly. For years she kept silent, either by choice or because of the traumatic events she went through. Mary’s name is well known, the subject of news articles which convicted her in the public eye and books on babies killing babies.
Mary has never had a reason to speak up and clarify what really happened all those years ago. Her mother, her sole parent, signed her parental rights over to the state and shows up only for a brief visit once every two weeks so Mary hasn’t really had anyone else in her life that she cared about. Even when her mother was in her life, she struggled with her mental health and wasn’t a tremendously stable influence.
Mary has never had a reason to care what people thought of her before, but now she has a boyfriend and an unborn baby to think about and she begins to think more about the future. Mary is a character that it is easy to root for. She is assumed to be dumb given her refusal to speak, but Mary is saving her money, studying hard and trying to build a strong future for herself. She wants to keep her baby, but knows that she will not be able to do that if she stays in the system as a convicted killer. Mary begins to expand her social network, reaching out for assistance to protect herself and her baby.
This is a book that kept me guessing what exactly happened to the baby all that time ago. As the events unfold, Mary’s reluctance to explain her history and what happened comes through the narrative, keeping the reader in the dark. Time and again that word “allegedly” is thrown out there as details begin to emerge and the big picture comes a bit clearer.
This book delivered a powerful and sadly realistic picture of the world of juvenile justice. Mary spent years in “baby jail” before going to a group home. Mary lives in real fear for her life in a home of girls who have questionable pasts themselves and minimal oversight. I work in a field where we sometimes provide services to youth coming out of juvenile probation camps and these youth have so many obstacles to overcome with a lack of resources, education and general day to day knowledge of the world outside of institutions.
In the end, there was a lot that I liked about this story, but I wasn’t entirely blown away by it. At times the ongoing assertions that something happened “allegedly” became a bit frustrating. I read most of this book through the audiobook edition and that was extremely well done.