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"Allegedly" by Tiffany D. Jackson

TITLE: Allegedly

PUBLISHED DATE: January 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-0062422644

PAGES: 400

Allegedly is an intense character driven novel about 16 year old Mary who killed a baby...allegedly. The book is captivating from start to finish. Gritty, raw, touching--as well as disturbing-- this book is a strong indictment of the juvenile criminal justice system and social services.

This novel is a compilation of Mary's narrative, witness interviews, and excerpts from books written about Mary and her alleged crime. The story opens with Mary being placed in a group home after serving time in "baby jail" for the murder of infant, Alyssa. She suffers verbal and mental abuse from group home caretakers as well as social workers. Mary's mother visits weekly. Her syrupy nature and overzealous religious convictions foreshadow a more sinister and complex individual. Mary's boyfriend gives her love and support, but there is a violent and klepto streak that betray questionable character and give him a depth. I found all of the characters to contain layers that kept me guessing. The plot is quick and highly accessible, but doesn't do so at the expense of good storytelling and superb character development. The story takes place in a group home for girls in New York City. You can feel the trauma and uncertainty of Mary's life. The setting is constructed in such a way that you can see it, and you can feel it. Jackson takes us all the way there. The crime itself is drawn in past reflections of people close to the case who give insight. This adds to the dimension of the story and adds a mysterious quality -- did Mary do the crime or not.

This book forces readers to confront their own biases, and in asking tough questions of the characters, you also must ask similar questions of the system. Is Mary a killer or not? What role did Mary's mother play in her upbringing? Is Mary's boyfriend, Ted, a good or bad influence? Is prison a reasonable place to detain a child, even a child convicted of murder? Are group homes up to the task of raising children, and should there be ways to segue youth from wards of the state to living on their own when they turn 18. There are so many questions raised in the book, and Jackson is skilled at showing the reader this grim world through the eyes of a bright yet troubled young girl.

This is a very compelling read that with grab reluctant readers as well as those that require literary heft and intellectual depth. This book has something for everyone: heart, romance, mystery, action, psychology. The law, and so much more.

Recommendation: Definitely must read!

Audience: Young Adults and up (Grown folk friendly!)

*I recieved the ARC from the publisher and I purchased the audiobook on Audible.

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