Welcome to Reader vs. Reader (anyone have any wicked name suggestions???). Two librarians who have read the same book will discuss it critically. They may agree, agree on certain points, or completely disagree. RvR will challenge your reading comfort zone and dig deeply into the text to find potential problems or subtle brilliance. And maybe both.
In , Andrea and Faythe both read Allegedly 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?
The Quick Reactions:
|Faythe: Thumbs up for the most part.I really liked the journey. How life was for her in the group home. The struggle to get adults to give her a chance. All the ones who think she’s stupid just because she was in jail.
||Andrea: Thumbs up. I overall enjoyed the story. I think there’s something to be said about an author who can make you sympathize and root for a baby killer. However, there were some things I found problematic and the ending really frustrated me as well.
Snippet of our conversation (Warning: spoilers everywhere!):
Faythe: I’m mad at that last chapter. And I don’t know what I believe. She became ultimate unreliable narrator
Andrea: Yes! I agree completely. Even though she sort of admitted to doing it, I’m not sure I still trust that.
Faythe: I really wanted more fleshed out with New Girl and Kelly. Did New Girl really push her down the stairs? Did she fling herself?
Andrea: I totally took it that she was pushed. BUT I did want to know more backstory on the new girl.
Faythe: And Kelly. There was so much I needed to know about the two of them. And the group home. How could they get away with the bullying?
Andrea: I took it as a lot and lot of cover-up? It felt like one of those the system failed them type of things? However, I did feel odd that Mrs. Stein was fired, but could still run a home?
Faythe: I guess, but Mrs. Stein seems so one dimensional when she could have been more. But I guess we are suppose to see things from Mary’s point of view.
Andrea: I think most of the characters, beyond Mary and Ted, were kind of flat. And I’m not sure that I really cared, but like I often confused which girl was which in the home
Faythe:I felt there was so much build up so much drama and then just waltzed out of the home to a new life, when she doesn’t really have one?
Andrea: Agree. I’ll admit I’m a bit frustrated by the ending. I hate open ended type things where I’m not sure what really happened. At this point, I don’t know if I should believe she’s a good liar or if she had a mental breakdown.
Faythe: I didn’t need everything tied up nicely, but there was so much left on the table! Her brother’s death. Her trail. Her mother’s life. What happens to the baby? I needed just one thing answered?
Andrea: I needed the cross thing answered! To me that’s the thing that either makes her a 9 year old genius or her new story was accurate.
Faythe: Did she start all this KNOWING that if she pulled back from her new story, it would still go forward? Yes, the cross thing was kind of weird. It was just a thing, but then it was a smoking gun?
Andrea: Exactly. So she says that she doesn’t remember what happened but the story she gave fit the autopsy? Including it seems a jewel from the cross in the baby’s throat?! As a 9 y/o did she really plant it?
Faythe: Or did her mom actually use the necklace and it was also a cause of death? Will they find a jewel in the baby’s stomach? Is that why they wanted to exhume the body?
Andrea: Right! I mean they could have been exhuming the body to relook at the injuries, but that’s what I need. I need more info about what they found. Also, if this jewel had been there the whole time, why not look more into it? Why was it such a slam dunk case when so many doubted it?
Faythe: She didn’t talk at all the first time. Her mother made all the decisions. She got a cheeseburger and jail.
Andrea: Right, but I guess I don’t understand why they wouldn’t investigate better? But I suppose that’s also a commentary on race?
Faythe: Yep. It was mentioned by someone (can’t remember) that if Mary had been a white girl, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. Or, people wouldn’t have wanted her dead.
Andrea And I can, unfortunately, completely see that, but man it still seems like shady investigation work. And just how she’s handled as a whole just screams SHADY SYSTEM. However, I don’t know how much that is due to Mary’s unreliability or the system just deserting her.
Faythe: I totally believe her in the sense that the system absolutely failed her. Black girl kills white kid. No need to thoroughly investigate. Nope. Not when her mom is willing to plea her life away.
Andrea: Agree. But then I start to doubt other things when we find out she had seen the therapist before. Like why wasn’t her reports in the file? Was it a cover up? Or just bad filing?
Faythe: I feel like that was part of Mary’s act. But I don’t know WHEN she started playing the reader? Did she do it all because of the baby? Or because she’s just evil?
Andrea: And I think that goes back to if you believe she did it or not.
Faythe: I always thought she did it, but on accident. Like she was trying to save her from her mother.
Andrea: Right, but if you take the last chapter as truth, she had planned the whole thing.
Faythe: And I do believe she did. I believe her life was horrible. She had to grow up faster than she should have. And she read. A lot. But why wait 7 years? Seven years to make people think otherwise? Did she plan it all in baby jail? Or when she found out she was pregnant?
Andrea: Yeah, I can’t decide how I think on that either. Either she’s a brilliant master mind or she’s had a psychotic break/mentally unstable. There’s a lot to support both.
Faythe: There really is. And that may be the whole point.
Andrea: I’m convinced it is! I think the author wanted you to finish questioning all you knew. I do think it’s the perfect novel to highlight an unreliable narrators.
Faythe: And to make you think about our justice system and how it treats people.
Andrea: Yes! And not even just when it came to Mary. You kind almost see all the girls in the group home getting the short end of the stick.
Faythe: They are taken care of until they turn 18. Then they are on their own. They are used as free labor for the higher ups and not given a fair chance to succeed.
Andrea: Yup. And if you look at someone like New Girl, she was obviously mentally ill. So she was just kind of thrown away as well.
Faythe: She had no business being in a group home. She should have been in a hospital. It also speaks to how overworked and understaffed social service agencies are. So many girls were not looked in on. How many caseworkers made an appearance? The only person checking up on them was their PO.
Andrea: Yes, I do think the book was a great commentary on the system–justice and social services—and how easy things can slid through the cracks.
Faythe: Which is why I gave it my thumbs up. It does a great job of shedding light on these situations. I just got confused by Mary’s case. And Mary herself
Andrea: Yes! OH, and I wanted to know more about how her mother got her. Like did she kidnap her?
Faythe: YES! How did she find Mary? I think she was kidnapped. That was another loose end.
Andrea: I think she was kidnapped as well, but I feel like that information came out of left field.
Faythe: “Oh, by the way. We are doing to do a DNA test on you.” Wha?
Andrea: Exactly. I do think a reread would be interesting, but I think there is a lot of clues buried if you know to look for them. Like the nurse/co-worker testimony totally supports the kidnap theory.
Faythe: It does. And then anonymous innate 2 (or 3?) talking about kids taking the fall because they won’t be punished at severe.
Andrea: Mhmm. And her mom saying the same thing. Which is why I’m not sure we were given the full story. I think we’re meant to fill in the gaps on our own.
Faythe: I would’ve loved more of the police notes. What they thought about everything. The DA too.
Andrea: Same. To change directions a little, I will say the one thing I really, really hated was the fat shaming.
Faythe: Oh yes! I hated that the villain Mrs. Stein just ate cake and couldn’t walk up the stairs. It was ridiculous. Typical YA trope though. That and the “I didn’t know I was pretty.”
Andrea: NGL, when I read the line “You think someone would change their diet after they reach 200 pounds” I felt punched.
Faythe: That was such an awful statement.
Andrea: And I know that people will play it off as Mary is just a horrible character, but man! Also, I noticed that every time Tara’s hands were mention it was alway “her fat hands”. Oh and the floor shook when she chased after her.
Faythe: And she did make sure to mention that one of Ted’s girls was thick. And one girl’s jean’s were too small or she was too big.
Andrea: Yup. And there were def. other mentions as well like the Push novel. You can have a horrible character, but those kind of comments are still not cool. Especially when there is no redeeming qualities given to those characters. They’re just fat and horrible.
Faythe: It comes across as “they are horrible because they are fat.”
Andrea: It really does. Granted, a lot of people were horrible, but I do think we need to talk about how this subtle language can be harmful.
Faythe: Especially the “200 pounds” line. That is just uncalled for and ridiculously harsh.
Andrea: Yes, that line set me off and made me notice every little comment after that, especially since it appeared so early in the book.
Faythe: Anyone who would help her was nice and thin. Cora. Claire.
Andrea: Mmhmm. Now granted there were so horrible characters who were thin as well, but there did seems to be more villainizing of those who were fat.
Faythe: It’s easy to overlook because right after she insults one person, she’s talking about someone else.
Andrea: Agree. And there’s a lot going on, so I could totally see how it’ll bother some and not others. But I do think there is enough evidence against it to show that there was a disdain for fatness. At the end of the day though, I still say it’s a great book.
Faythe: This is a good bookclub book. Lots to unpack.