One of the most popular titles in my classroom this past school year, Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson reads much like the storm that raged this morning as I zipped through the final 200 pages—jolting thunder, cracks of lightning, and even when things seem calm, a persistent menace.
Fifteen-year-old Mary lives in a horror-show of a group home, ill-treated by those running the home, tortured by her fellow housemates, a lost soul in a crumbling juvenile justice system. But why should we feel sorry for her? After all, nine-year-old Mary murdered the infant her mother was supposed to be taking care of.
Justice moves slowly, and when a baby is killed, society prefers the viper strike of vengeance; thus Mary’s silence in the aftermath of tiny Alyssa’s death quickly combines with the testimony of Mary’s mother to send Mary into the isolation of “baby jail.”
Mary eventually ages out of “baby jail” and into the group home, where the few “freedoms” include community service. The nursing home where Mary “volunteers” leads to her meeting Ted, a fellow “volunteer” living a similarly adjudicated reality. Ted is the one light in Mary’s darkness, and when Mary reveals she is pregnant, Ted stays true to her.
Her pregnancy puts Mary in another kind of “baby jail”: the reality that the state plans to take her baby and put it up for adoption. After all, how can a baby-killer be expected to be a good mother? The prospect of having her baby taken away leads Mary to revisit her past and, with the help of strong women like her SAT tutor Ms. Claire and crusading lawyer Ms. Cora, rebuild a future where the truth about Mary’s past is revealed.
Brutal and disturbing in its depictions of broken lives, broken minds, and broken systems, Allegedly casts into question our notions of justice, sanity, and forgiveness, Allegedly uses Mary’s compelling voice to relentlessly push us forward, plot twist after plot twist, revelation after revelation. But for those who expect a clear light ahead after such darkness, Jackson complicates our “happy” ending.