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The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu - Review

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Where did I get it? I requested it on Netgalley, so thank you very much to Hachette Children's Group because I really wanted to read this book! I've read two books of Jen's previously and really enjoyed them, so I was keen to read this too. It was published in the United States in 2014, but is only just being published here in the UK. I hope that means a whole new audience for it! 

What's it about? It's set in a small town in Texas called Healy, where there are three thousand people and where everyone knows everyone's business. There's a girl called Alice Franklin, and everyone knows two things about her: firstly, that she slept with Brandon and Tommy at the same time at a party at the end of the summer, and that she was sending texts to Brandon a few weeks later when he is driving in a fatal car crash. Everyone knows those things are true, right? That's why no one is talking to Alice anymore and why she's started coming to school in a huge grey sweatshirt. 

The book is told from the points of view of four people. Firstly there's Elaine, who is a super popular girl in school and who hates Alice because Alice made out with Brandon even though Elaine is pretty sure Brandon belonged to her. Then there's Kelsie, who was Alice's best friend until all of this happened, and who remembers being an outsider in Flint and doesn't want to go back to that. Kelsie had some really awful stuff happen to her, which was one of the best bits of the book (and it's a good book!). There's Josh, Brandon's best friend, who was with him at the time of the crash and who ended up injured. Lastly there's Kurt, who is the resident school geek, and who was Brandon's next door neighbour. He has a huge crush on Alice, and is the only person in the school who will talk to her.

I know Jen is a high school teacher and I think it really shows. She writes beautiful and beautifully flawed teenagers who are really realistic and who do really stupid things, but Jen makes us understand why they do these things. From an adult point of view I was often thinking "Oh, love, please just use your words and sort this out", but teenagers don't have adult brains yet and they're often surviving a lot and just trying to get through life. If I was a teenager I think I would totally understand why these teens made a lot of these decisions. I think Jen has such a talent here. I liked how we got the full story of what happened to Alice bit by bit, and that we could only see the full story because we read so many points of view. Each teen didn't have the full story and probably wouldn't ever know it, so had their own prejudices and point of view. 

I loved the depiction of small town life, I think Jen brought that alive really well and made me think a lot about small towns and the politics and people that co-exist in them. 

There's a lot of political stuff in the book but without it being overtly so. There's a lot about sex, and sexual assault, and slut shaming, all done really well and in ways that I would hope make readers think. Jen is one of my favourite authors at the moment and I'm pretty sure that's partly due to the fact I follow her on Twitter and see her political opinions there. This book definitely deserves to be read. 

What age range is it for? 14+

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 

Are any main characters people of colour? No, I don't think so

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, it's not graphic but be warned for descriptions of sexual assault and slut shaming 

Are drugs mentioned or used? I don't think so? 

Is there any talk of death? Yes but again it's not graphic

Are there swear words? Very few 

What criticisms do I have? You know, almost none. Like I said, as an adult I just wanted to make the teenagers just talk to each other and sort things out, but I appreciate that teenagers often exist in little cliques that rarely cross paths. I actually thought the book was too short! I would've liked more of it! 

Would I recommend the book? Absolutely 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I just couldn't wait after getting it approved 

What other books is it like? It's a bit like Wing Jones, which i read recently, and it's a lot like Moxie, also by this author, especially in its depiction of high school. I guess teaching in one is really good for writing!

How many stars? Four out of five, nine out of ten! 

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