Will Tiffany D. Jackson ever tire of leaving my stomach in knots? I had to stop myself from staying up all night to finish Allegedly because Jackson is such a pro at manipulation, emotional suspense, and mystery. Allegedly is an intense story (please read the trigger warnings first), but it will leave you not sure what to believe. Keep reading this book review to find my still-in-shock feelings.
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? 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?
TW: assault, attempted child rape, domestic abuse, abuse, statutory rape/relationship, pedophilia, graphic animal death
I am still reeling from Allegedly. It’s a book that makes you question basically everything you read in, what I’ve come to know as, Tiffany Jackson style. It’s a book that continuously keeps you on the hook. At the beginning we want so badly to know the truth. Even as Mary shares her account of what happened, I was practically screaming, “WHAT HAPPENED?!” But finishing, I’m not even sure what I read.
Jackson delivers a story about the truly unfair justice system while mixing in transcripts and quotes from movies/articles. Allegedly is a difficult read. Sure I finished it in a matter of days because I had to find out what happened, but Mary has a truly horrible life of abuse, hardship, and fighting against the system and her own family. Having never been in a situation remotely like hers, I cannot imagine how difficult it is for her as an alleged child murderer.
The Justice System
And that’s part of how Jackson’s writing grips you. Because every time you read the word “allegedly” is should make you pause. What happens to our lives when we have been accused of a crime? How does it affect our lives, our sense of self, from that moment forwards? And what about when we are judged before ever stepping in a court room? How, in some ways, we remain guilty before a crime is ever committed. And how different the justice system, the world is, for Mary a black girl accused of killing a white baby. Allegedly holds some dark secrets. While at the beginning we may be wondering if we can figure out what happened, during the course of the book we begin to realize that we might never truly know.
Yet, mystery aside, Allegedly is also an emotional story about Mary’s treatment in the foster system, in prison, by her family, and by society. Your heart aches for her as she tries to move forwards with her life, how much she loves her baby, and the odds against her. It’s not only the people who might literally stand in her way, but also the systemic racism and obstacles against her. It all combines in an emotional whirlwind. How having someone to actually care about us, to want to help, can make the world of difference for these girls.
My mind and heart have been completely manipulated by Jackson and the writing in Allegedly. It’s a story that discusses the mistreatment of Mary in the system and with her case. The ways she never truly had a chance. But it’s also a story about unreliable narrators and the effects of abuse on our psyche and heart. I do want to be clear that these two issues don’t negate each other. You can discuss the unfair treatment, the roadblocks placed in their way, of these girls without negating the crimes.
In general though, I have no idea what to feel and that is just a testament to how clever and masterful Jackson’s writing is. Allegedly offers us no easy answers. Find Allegedly on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, Bookshop.org & The Book Depository.