Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Truth About Alice - Jennifer Mathieu (Review)

The Truth About Alice - Jennifer Mathieu
The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
Source/Format: Publisher (Thanks Ksenia + Macmillan!) || ARC
[I received this book for review from the publisher. This in no way affects the thoughts expressed in my review.]

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. (from Goodreads)

The Truth About Alice has put me on the spot, as up until the very minute of typing out this review, I can't decide which side of the "like" line it falls on. There were things about it that really worked well, but there were also things that rubbed me the wrong way. Clearly, this novel left an impression on me - and I'm hoping that the thoughts in this review will clarify how I feel.

The strongest aspect of The Truth About Alice is the storytelling. It's jarring, and seems to be all over the place, because there are four different character POVs. But it worked well for this story. The truth about Alice, Healy, these four characters is revealed sparingly with each new chapter, and I liked that because it kept me interested in what would happen or be revealed next.

Being in the heads of four different people allows the picture they paint of Alice to seem complex and untainted (which is not true of their perspectives at all). Really though, jumping from character to character is actually a clever way for Mathieu to reveal the truth of each person talking about Alice and their involvement in her predicament or life.

However, it also showed readers how complex (and unlikable) these characters could get. The revelation of their true personalities wasn't always pleasant, and while that makes them real people, it also makes it hard to care about any of them. On a smaller scale, this served as an allusion to how small towns can sometimes be - filled with gossip, speculation and the passage of judgment without knowing all of the facts. Mathieu's portrayal is pretty spot on, and though it made me cringe, it also worked.

Though I didn't personally connect with the characters or find the story memorable, I do think the storytelling style definitely worked well. When it all comes down to it, The Truth About Alice was an seemingly ordinary small-town story told in a fascinating way.


Rachel and I have decided to collaborate on this new feature, since we often end up having a lot of the same ARCs. We've decided to read them around the same time, so we can discuss them, and we're sharing answers to one burning question related to the book, author or series with our reviews!

Our question: Were there a lot of rumors in your high school?

I went to an all-girls high school in a small town (small by Philippine standards). Even so, there were plenty of rumors that went around our school -- everything from boys with crushes (and bad intentions), teacher-student relationship, to lesbians, to pregnancies and abortions. Surprisingly, there were less rumors when it came to family stuff (like illegitimate children, etc). 

2 comments:

  1. Yeah this book didn't really do it for me either :( I was expecting something unique and different in respect to bullying aaaaand it was just the same as a lot of other books in this sub-genre. Sigh.

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  2. I actually enjoyed this one! I thought it was definitely jarring and I did think it maybe could have a been a BIT more serious since some of the kids seemed a bit TOO stereotypical and too willing to go with the rumors? But I thought it was great in sort of opening my eyes to wonder what I would do in this situation.

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