Trigger Warning: Homomisia, Fatmisia, Ableism re: Mental Illnesses, Abuse, Rape, MolestationAllegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
Published by HarperCollins Australia on January 24th 2017
Genres: Psychological Thriller, Murder Mystery
Format: Overdrive Ebook
Orange Is the New Black meets Walter Dean Myer’s Monster in this gritty, twisty, and haunting debut by Tiffany D. Jackson about a girl convicted of murder seeking the truth while surviving life in a group home.
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?
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’s fate now lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But does anyone know the real Mary?
Ever finish a book and become so overwhelmed you just sit in silence contemplating how on earth you were ever fortunate enough to read said book? That was me, sitting in silence, stunned at the world and the very raw essence of Allegedly.
Allegedly was a mind game I wanted more of, it tricked me and I can’t believe it did. It took me on a roller-coaster of emotions and allowed me to glance into the justice system for young people, specifically young African-Americans, in this day and age. It was emotionally exhausting, seeing a Black girl be put through so much pain, I felt for her, I wanted to protect her, I wanted to hold her hand and tell her “It’s aight sis, I got you“. But then I changed my mind because of the ending! I was genuinely shook! It also had me rethinking the whole book.
Mary was such a stunning character, the way Tiffany writes her is absolutely fascinating. Her emotions and character drench the pages and seep through your whole body. Her story is inevitably a story thousands of Black girls share in correction centres and group homes.
Tiffany lays it out, nothing held back, and tells it how it is. The justice system in America is disgustingly built on systematic racism and continues to oppress people. She goes into so much detail about every aspect that genuinely fails Black girls who are stuck in the system. These aspects and people include social workers, mentors, officers and so much more. They all have a part in enabling the system in creating a unhealthy, racist and discriminatory cycle that Black youth can never really escape from.
The cast of characters was also absolutely spectacular. I especially loved the women of colour in this book, Ms Cora and Miss Claire. I could read Miss Claire’s dialogue forever. She felt so real and reminded me of my own grandmother. She just wanted the absolute best for Mary. So did Ms Cora, who you immediately grow to love when she shows you how passionate she is about protecting Mary. These two women made me love ‘Allegedly‘ even more, they both felt so authentic. Another character that was absolutely amazing to read about was Ted. The way Tiffany wrote his character and his whole arc felt so real. Ted, another Black teenager stuck in the endless cycle of criminalisation finds solace in Mary and these two are, quite frankly, inseparable. The interaction between Mary and Ted throughout the book had me on edge; I didn’t know what would happy next for them.
The girls in the group home were also astounding characters, they keep it real throughout the book. The careful character development each character went through allowed me to know that Tiffany put so much work into them. They were just as important and just as deserving to be listened to as Mary was. Also note, that there is a point at the start of the book where Mary makes homomisia remarks to herself about one of the girls being a lesbian. There is also constant fat shaming remarks against one of Mary’s carers in her group home.
The way the story played out was unexpected and hit me out of nowhere. Should I have seen the ending coming? I don’t know. I was so engrossed in the book that I just trusted everything that was stated. Especially what Mary says about her mother, which is where demonisation of Mental Illness comes in. When taking into account of how the book ends, from the beginning, mental illness is put forth as to blame for the murder of baby Alyssa. View Spoiler »But then later on we find out that Mary’s mother, who suffers from a unnamed mental illness/es, wasn’t to blame for the death of Alyssa like Mary had stated « Hide Spoiler. So overall, we believe the person responsible for Alyssa’s death has a mental illness, which demonises it. View Spoiler »Mary blames her mother for the death of Alyssa and tries to convince us that this is true through flashbacks « Hide Spoiler. This was unsettling after finding out the truth about who really killed Alyssa.
Mary was such an untrustworthy narrator but she gives you literally no reason to second guess her words. She spills so much about her childhood and recounts her rapes and how her mother’s boyfriend molested her. It broke my heart reading these scenes, Mary deserved better, Black girls in the system deserve better. She talks about her time in juvie, her unborn child she calls ‘Bean’ and her feelings for Ted. She exposes her whole self and allows us to see the ‘real’ Mary, or let me rephrase this appropriately, the Mary she wants us to see. We don’t know whether she’s lying or not, which makes the ending even more shocking because, for me, it came out of nowhere. I can’t wait for Tiffany’s next book, honestly, truly. The world deserves another book full of her words.
Allegedly had me shook! It gave an insight into the horrible conditions of the justice system, how it treats Black individuals and how systematic racism impacts it all. However one of the books premises is quite delicate, as it shines light on Mental Illness and how the Black community views it, but it also demonises Mental Illness to show how easy it is to, well, demonise and pin a crime on someone who isn’t neurotypical.
I was unsettled at the thought of a non-neurotypical Black women being the ‘culprit’ but Tiffany tries her best to write about this and how there’s this double standard when getting justice that Black people inevitably suffer from. Now being mentally ill and Black, now that’s two strikes and the whole world is literally against you. I wish there was more in the ending, more characters, more loose ends cut, more questions answered. But it’s the ending we’ve received so I’m just existing now, walking around aimlessly, trying to find my own answers to questions the book never resolved.
This book was an absolute trip, one I wish lasted a bit longer. Taking in consideration of all the content, characters, story and finally, the things I’ve learned and wish others will learn from this book, I’ve awarded Allegedly four stars.