Publication Year: 2017
Publisher: Katharine Tegen Books
Page Count: 390
Rating: 5 stars!!
Blurb (From GoodReads):
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?
This book has officially made Tiffany D. Jackson my new favorite author. And considering the fact this was her debut novel? Absolutely stunning!
Tiffany D. Jackson’s debut novel, Allegedly, follows Mary, a Black teenager who at age nine was “allegedly” accused of killing a white infant. After weeks of questioning and interviews, detectives could not get any information out of Mary, leaving the media to assume that she was guilty, and soon a jury followed suit. Now, Mary is 16 years old, and finds herself pregnant. Knowing she will never be allowed to keep her baby while she is convicted of murdering an infant, she ensues on a journey to prove her innocence. It is also worth noting this story is based on a real murder case that took place in Maine, where a 10 year old was charged with manslaughter after an infant she was babysitting died in her care.
This book will capture its reader from the very first page, using different mediums including interviews, articles, police reports, and book excerpts to tell this story. Tiffany D. Jackson jumps right into the action, by opening up with an “Excerpt from Babies Killing Babies: Profiles of Preteen and Teen Murderers.” Using this multi-media approach in this novel, the reader is able to see Mary’s cases from two perspectives: her own, and the media. The media portrays her as being “born bad, plain and simple,” with protestors claiming she “deserves to rot in jail for the rest of her life.” However, Mary opens up to the reader claiming her innocence. This gives the reader a well-rounded understanding of the case, and everything that Mary has been through in just a short 16 years. The reader longs to believe Mary’s story, because they grow to care about her throughout the course of the novel, even if the facts point otherwise.
While the media portrays Mary as a dangerous baby murderer, Tiffany D. Jackson does a fantastic job of developing her beyond this, showing the reader that Mary just longs to be a normal teenager. While passing a group of high schoolers playing basketball, she thinks about the fact that “There are no social workers hating them, roommates trying to kill them, or parole officers looking for any excuse to throw them back into baby jail. And they don’t have to worry about having a baby at sixteen.” This helps the reader see a deeper part of Mary that outsiders can’t see. Even though she has a tough exterior, she longs for normalcy, something she will never have because she has become infamous in her town.
While Mary is a very complex character, her relationship with her mother is even more complicated. After Mary’s arrest, her mother puts up a facade of a perfect church-goer, trying to protect her image. Mary is aware of this, telling the reader that “”Momma is all about appearances.” Mary’s mother visits her every other Sunday, and everyone tells her that she should be thankful, since she doesn’t deserve parental love. Yet even so, something about the relationship just feels so off, and it becomes more and more evident as the novel goes on. Along with that, Tiffany D. Jackson uses Mary’s mother to show readers what affects mental health can have on people and their loved ones. Throughout the novel, Mary often mentions that her mother takes many “pills,” and that if she doesn’t she has “a day.” On these days, the author describes what are known to most as panic/anxiety attacks, which ultimately has a major effect on both Mary, her mother, and both of their futures.
Tiffany D. Jackson also uses this novel to explore race relations in America, and how Black Americans are treated much differently than white Americans in the media. While describing a protest demanding justice to the deceased newborn, passerbys state “ There would never be this type of outcry if the baby was black. Period. You’ve never seen white families storming the steps of city hall demanding justice for a little black baby. They’re pushing the death penalty and don’t even realize executing this little girl is no different than murdering that baby.” Tiffany D. Jackson is explaining to readers that the media often tends to criminalize Black Americans, while not giving Black victims the justice they deserve. This goes hand-in-hand with cases in the media today, such as the Breonna Taylor and George Floyd cases, where the white police officers are constantly being defended or excused despite the fact they have taken an innocent life. The author uses this book to take a character who the readers have learned to care about, and inserts this commentary in a way that everyone can understand.
To sum up, this book is perfect for readers who love fast paced mystery thrillers, fictional stories with political commentary, and well developed characters. Tiffany D. Jackson is a master at storytelling, fictionalizing this real case and adding to the stakes, creating a page turner of a novel.