The Truth About Alice by Jennifer MathieuThe Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu
Published by Roaring Brook Press on June 3rd 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 209
Goodreads

Everyone knows Alice slept with two guys at one party.

But did you know Alice was sexting Brandon when he crashed his car?

It's true. Ask ANYBODY.

Rumor has it that Alice Franklin is a slut. It's written all over the bathroom stall at Healy High for everyone to see. And after star quarterback Brandon Fitzsimmons dies in a car accident, the rumors start to spiral out of control.

In this remarkable debut novel, four Healy High students—the girl who has the infamous party, the car accident survivor, the former best friend, and the boy next door—tell all they know.

But exactly what is the truth about Alice? In the end there's only one person to ask: Alice herself.

3 Stars

Most of us know what it feels like to have rumours spread about us, to have people talking behind our backs. It’s not a good feeling, but usually these stories are forgotten after a while. People move on. These things happen and it seems we just have to accept it.

What to do however, if a rumour causes you to become a social pariah? If you lose all your friends? If you live in a small town where everybody knows everybody and it’s impossible to get away from what people are saying. If nobody is willing to forget.

That’s what happened to Alice Franklin. She’s a slut, slept with two guys at the same party. One of them died because of her. Just ask anyone. They’ll tell you the story.

The Truth About Alice is a powerful book that sends a strong message. The novel addresses so many important issues that can’t be brought up enough: bullying, slut-shaming, prejudice, to name a few. The book is very blunt and honest, making the reader aware of how our judgments can affect others and how easily the truth can be distorted.

What makes The Truth About Alice special and different from your average contemporary high school drama is the way the story is written. The novel is told from four different perspectives. We have Elaine, your typical mean-girl Queen Bee. Kelsie, Alice’s former BFF who dumped her for fear of loosing her treasured popular girl status. Josh, the best friend of the hottest and most popular jock in town. And Kurt, the school genius and nerd but also social outcast. Using all these voices was both a great and ambitious idea and I think it worked well; this type of storytelling really lends itself to giving the reader a broader spectrum of the situation at hand.

In terms of what this novel was trying to do, I believe it succeeded. It unraveled stereotypes, brought empathy and respect to various issues and showed how it’s always a matter of perspective. Jennifer Mathieu takes the well-known stereotypes of high school labels and transforms them into three-dimensional characters. We are all just humans, we make mistakes and we all have our own reasons for doing selfish things. As I said above, it’s a powerful book.

But despite all these positives, despite the fact that I really appreciate what Jennifer Mathieu tried to do here, something was missing for me. Though I think the book is important, I hesitate to recommend it. I didn’t connect. It didn’t make me feel anything. I had no attachment to any of the characters and constantly felt like a bystander; someone who was watching the story unfold before them but wasn’t actually part of it. Although I could sympathize with all of the characters, I couldn’t actually empathize with any of them and thus the story lost some of its power.

It’s difficult for me to pinpoint why exactly I felt this detachment. For one thing, there is the writing. I understand why the author chose to use this type of writing style to tell the story since it’s very authentic to how teens think and speak, but ultimately, I just didn’t like it. I found the overuse of words such as “like”, “really”, “so” and “very” to be tedious and the language didn’t have the nice flow I enjoy. It was too juvenile. I did get over it towards the end, but as a whole it still bothered me. The other problem I had with the writing was how much it felt like telling instead of showing. I feel like I never saw any of the characters have a strong outwardly emotional response; I was only told they felt a certain way but could never witness it for myself.

I also felt quite detached from the setting. The stereotypes used in the novel are ones I only know from movies and have never experienced myself. Maybe that was part of why I never felt any attachment to the story. If you went to an American high school, this may very well work better for you.

I had mixed feelings about the ending: On the one hand, I loved how realistic it was and how the author resisted wrapping everything up neatly. On the other hand, I was hoping for a little bit more.

Regardless of my complaints, I still think it’s both an important and thought-provoking book. I know I’m repeating what every reviewer has said, but I really believe this is a novel every teen should read.