Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Whew! What a read!
Convicted at the age of nine for the death of an eight-week-old baby girl Annalise, Mary B. Addison is serving time at a group home for convicted teens. Allowed to have a part-time job at a nursing home and to leave the group home on weekends wearing an ankle bracelet, Mary much rather prefers the group home to what she calls “baby jail,” where she first initially was serving her sentence.
You can’t help but to feel sorry for Mary who finds herself caught up in a system that repeatedly fails her. Her mother, Dawn, certainly wouldn’t be nominated, let alone win Mother of the Year. Before conveniently finding religion, she was in and out of relationships, unreliable and irresponsible. She left five-year-old Mary home alone with her infant brother, who unfortunately died from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). The deaths of the boy and Annalise within years of each other are enough to cast doubt on both the mother and daughter. Through it all, Mary feels protective of her mother.
Narrator Mary uses the word “allegedly” throughout the book because she claims she blacked out during the incident that resulted in a dead baby. After becoming pregnant by Ted, another convicted teen and co-worker at home where Mary works, Mary is determined to fight for her freedom at any cost. It is up to the courts to decide if she or her mother is the true perpetrator of the crime. The problem is years before Mary never defended herself. She never spoke a word.
Though this is a work of fiction, it sheds a light on the issue of kids and teens and nature vs nurture. Can they be rehabilitated? What should happen to them when they age out of the system after becoming wards of the state? Another if not bigger issue, is the social commentary of a Black child being shown no mercy when she was tried and convicted in the court of public opinion for the death of a white baby. There were protestors outside the courthouse. Had Mary been white, there would’ve been all sorts of pleas for mercy and arguments of mental or emotional instability. As a Black child, she was deemed a cold-blooded murderer. Tabloids and books plastered her name and image everywhere. Only because she proved to be a model prisoner was she allowed to be moved to a low security facility.
I am beyond impressed with Tiffany D. Jackson’s storytelling. Her skill to draw in a reader and keep you enthralled is extraordinary, especially since I am a grown adult reading YA fiction, or at least, the main characters are young adults. Allegedly is Jackson’s debut novel, but it’s the last one I read. I consumed Monday’s Not Coming, Let Me Hear a Rhyme and Allegedly, all audiobooks over 10 hours in length in less than a week. A workweek. I don’t want to be a teenager again, but I certainly don’t mind reading about them.