by Tiffany D. Jackson
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 church-going 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?
I'd seen this book around at the beginning of this year, that simplistic cover kept catching my eye on Goodreads, but it wasn't until I saw Cait @ Paper Fury's review that I actually let myself look into what Allegedly is about. Needless to say, I was intrigued. I don't tend to read much YA these days, not by choice but simply because a lot of the books I love to read don't fall into that category, but whenever I do read it I usually really enjoy it and I'm always interested in YA that covers dark topics like this one.
When Mary was a little girl, she was found guilty of killing a baby. When Mary was a little girl, she was found guilty of killing a white baby, and when Mary herself is black that makes all the difference. Now a teenager and unexpectedly pregnant herself, Mary has to try to prove her innocence before her baby is taken away from her.
I think it's safe to say that if you're not a fan of dark books with upsetting themes, then this book isn't for you because Jackson is not at all afraid to shy away from the gritty, grotesque side of human nature. The world Mary inhabits is unfair and has always treated her unfairly, I think it's the unfairness of her story, more than anything else, that really got to me. Particularly because it's quite clear that if certain things were different - if Mary's upbringing had been different or her mother had been different or her skin colour had been different - she'd be living a much better life than the one she's been dealt. She's a bright young girl with a lot of potential, but that potential has been stripped away by things out of her control; by a society that chose to ignore her when she was most in need and only pay her any attention when they could blame her for the death of a child who was more worthy of their time.
Mary was the strongest part of this book for me; I'm not sure I've ever wanted to hug a character more, I felt so strongly for her and I was desperate for her story to be revealed and told and believed. It reminded me a little of Gillian Flynn's Dark Places, actually, so if you've read and enjoyed this book and are looking for something else to read I'd recommend picking that one up.
I was ready to give Allegedly five stars and then the final chapter came along. I'm not going to spoil anything, but for me the final chapter felt like a final 'dun dun duuuun!' moment from the author that didn't need to be there and actually weakened a lot of the points she'd made so well throughout the rest of the novel about racism and classism. Did it ruin the novel for me? No. Did it need to be there? Also no. It bothered me a little, but the majority of this book is so well done and dark, without being gratuitous, that I simply have to recommend it. It's a very strong debut and I can't wait to see what Tiffany D. Jackson does next.