Review: The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu

Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Title: The Truth About Alice 
Author: Jennifer Mathieu
Genre: young adult, contemporary
Series: N/A
Pages: 208
Published: expected June 3 2014
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 4.5/5

Everyone has a lot to say about Alice Franklin, and it’s stopped mattering whether it’s true. The rumors started at a party when Alice supposedly had sex with two guys in one night. When school starts everyone almost forgets about Alice until one of those guys, super-popular Brandon, dies in a car wreck that was allegedly all Alice’s fault. Now the only friend she has is a boy who may be the only other person who knows the truth, but is too afraid to admit it. Told from the perspectives of popular girl Elaine, football star Josh, former outcast Kelsie, and shy genius Kurt, we see how everyone has a motive to bring – and keep – Alice down.

The Truth About Alice is a slim book -- just over two hundred pages for the finished version. But with those few pages, and the four narrators that anchor the novel, Jennifer Mathieu paints the vivid, horrifying, and sadly believable story of Alice Franklin's extreme ostracism in her small, critical town. Following in the footsteps of authors like Courtney Summers and Christa Desir, Mathieu uses (mostly) unlikeable narrators to explore controversial topics, but she does so without alienating her readers. It's admittedly not the easiest story to read, but Mathieu's debut is brash and loud and challenging in all the right ways.

The narrators of the story (Kurt - a nerdy loner, Kelsie - Alice's former best friend, Elaine - the most popular girl at school, and Josh - a jock and one of Brandon's friends) are hard to like from their selfishness to their obliviousness to their sheeplike mentality, with the exception of Kurt. It's obvious that Mathieu wrote them that way on purpose -- like Summers' Regina Afton from Some Girls Are, these narrators are horrible to prove a point. They are a microcosm of the town's larger (unjust) attitude toward Alice. They show how vapid, judgmental, and harmful rumors and bullying can be and how people are easily led into treating someone "different" as subhuman. 

The truth found in The Truth About Alice is that our culture is far too easy to shame and punish sexual women. The truth about Alice's story is that we are far too quick to judge and blame without cause and far too slow to think and question the rumors we hear. Our culture is notoriously hypocritical when it comes to the treatment of sexually active men and women (no matter their age), and Mathieu's exploration of that in a small town is ultimately quite powerful. The fact that Alice gets ABSOLUTELY no voice in her own story until the very last chapter is not an accident. What she has to say matters little against what others have to say about her. It's a subtle point reinforced late in the story, but Mathieu makes it smartly.

I lovehate this book. I love it because it's unafraid to challenge our backwards culture when it comes to approaching these subjects, but I hate how accurate and heartbreaking Alice's situation is. I lvoe it because Jennifer Mathieu obviously had something to say and she said it so well. I hate it because I've seen this kind of ostracism and the story is doubly realistic. For all these reasons and more, The Truth About Alice is memorable and moving.Without doubt, this is a story that will continue to provoke many emotions in readers.

1 comment:

  1. Yay yay yay yay! I'm so happy you loved this one. I agree 100000% with everything you say in this review and I love how you talked about how little Alice's voice mattered in her own story. This is sadly the treatment of women everywhere and I am so appreciative of an author that can capture it.


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