Thursday, May 28, 2015

The truth about Alice by Jennifer Mathieu

Everyone knows the story about Alice - how she slept with two boys on the same night, and that one of those boys later crashed his car because she was constantly texting him.  Everyone knows the story because Healy is a small town and no one has secrets in a small town.  Everyone knows the story and some are even willing to share what they know with anyone who wants to know the truth.

Elaine is the popular girl in school, the queen bee that everyone else follows.  She has influence and power, and no one is going to go against her opinion that Alice Franklin is a slut who deserves to be named and shamed because Alice made out with her boyfriend at a school dance and left Elaine embarrassed.  Joining her voice to Elaine's is Kelsie, Alice's former best friend, the one person who should have stuck by Alice.  Something terrible happened to Kelsie in the summer and that influences her actions - but does it excuse them?  Josh is one of the Brandon's best friends and was in the car the day it crashed, he knows what caused the accident and when Brandon's mom asks what happened he has to tell her.  The final voice is Kurt, the voice of the outsider who watches the humiliation and isolation of Alice as the events unfold - is he too afraid to reach out to her too?

Told thorough a series of shifting chapters that cycle through the main characters we get a real sense of what was happening for Alice as the people involved manipulate and twist the truth for their own reasons and their own gains.  Through Kelsie we see the former best friend who is so insecure she will say almost anything to keep her new circle of popular friends, including selling out the former friend who never judged her or made her feel like an outsider.  Through Elaine we see a petty and shallow queen bee who wants to get revenge and keep Alice on the outside, keeping her place is the most important thing.  For Josh it is protecting his friend, making Alice the scapegoat because everyone else already is - but is there more to it than just that?  Kurt seems to be the only voice that seems to be genuinely interested in the truth, but also seems to be the only person to see Alice as herself.

The truth about Alice is a powerful and engaging read, one that I didn't want to put down and read in one sitting.  The voices of each of the characters is clearly defined, and as the novel proceeds we get to see past the surface veneer of their caricatures and get to see the real people underneath.  The final voice is the voice of Alice, which is the perfect ending for a book that has been about her but otherwise excludes her.  This is a very human focused story, one that could have played out in any small town in the world, not just the small Texan town of Healy.  The teenage years are some of the hardest years anyone can go through, a time of discovering the adults we will become - but also clinging to the memories and safety of childhood.  Fear and shame are strong themes throughout The truth about Alice, fear of being an outsider and of people discovering the truth - shame about telling untruths and gaining through deceit.  While this is not the biggest novel in the world at only 199 pages, it was the perfect length to tell the story of Alice.

If you like this book then try:
  • Hate list by Jennifer Brown
  • Sold by Patricia McCormick
  • Thirteen reasons why by Jay Asher
  • I swear by Lane Davis
  • Rooftop by Paul Volponi
  • Panic by Sharon M. Draper
  • The mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Such a pretty girl by Laura Wiess
  • Living dead girl by Elizabeth Scott

Reviewed by Brilla

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