My mini review of The Truth about Alice by Jennifer Mathieu, a young adult contemporary novel narrated by four teenagers who all have different opinions on the bullying and slut-shaming of their classmate, Alice Franklin, published by Roaring Brook Press on June 3, 2014.Goodreads
Everyone knows Alice slept with two guys at one party. When Healy High star quarterback, Brandon Fitzsimmons, dies in a car crash, it was because he was sexting with Alice. Ask anybody. Rumor has it Alice Franklin is a slut. It's written all over the "slut stall" in the girls' bathroom: "Alice had sex in exchange for math test answers" and "Alice got an abortion last semester." After Brandon dies, the rumors start to spiral out of control. In this remarkable debut novel, four Healy High students tell all they "know" about Alice--and in doing so reveal their own secrets and motivations, painting a raw look at the realities of teen life. But in this novel from Jennifer Mathieu, exactly what is the truth about Alice? In the end there's only one person to ask: Alice herself.
1. For those of you who might be concerned about reading this because it seems too dark -- I'd say worry not. It is a book with an important message and it is dark at times, but there's a story line running parallel everything bad being said about Alice. And that story line is brilliant, beautiful, and speaks to the power of second chances and acceptance. It has its humor and makes the book less depressing to read while still adding onto the layers of discussion.
2. Again to those of you who might be concerned -- worry not because the book is well-written, paced well, and a short, quick read with important messages. The pacing is brilliant. Jennifer Mathieu nailed the voices of all these individual teens. There are a lot of PoVs, but I never once questioned whose PoV I was reading. The writing was easy to read and smooth. The writing helps make this book a quick read, which is excellent because it has a lot of discussion starters without those dragging the book down.
3. It's true that the characters have a bit of that stereotypical edge - the synopsis describes them that way too. But Mathieu did a great job at making these characters and the setting come to life regardless. Further into the book, the characters come into their own while still remaining the type that feel realistic, that you might meet a block away from your house. Mathieu even humanizes Brandon Fitzsimmons and makes him seem realistic, and I hated that douchecanoe (though he's not alone in the shaming process).
4. And last but definitely not least, this is a seriously important book to read. At the time that I am writing this, #YesAllWomen is still going strong on twitter. One of the tweets constantly seen is that if a woman says no, she's called a bitch; if she says yes, she's called a slut. This book is a good primer to starting the discussion on this with young adults. It tackles bullying, slut-shaming, and the social strata of high school. Second chances, the effects our words have with and without our full knowledge. Everyone seems to notice Alice's big boobs and her raspberry colored lips. She's still not asking for anything either.